ERA for Navigator RPG

Last week, I wrote that I hoped to see ERA for Navigator RPG soon. Yesterday Voriig Kye sent me the files!

The digital assistant is now live on DriveThruRPG, the core listing is PWYW and contains all three versions [Windows, MacOS and Linux].

There will be more datafiles in the future.

Talking of the future, Bare Metal Edition is still making progress. BME is a Rolemaster style core system. Originally, I thought of it as having no implied genre, but that is wrong. It has every genre. We already have rituals, magic, and psionics. On my to-do list is superpowers, not an area that Rolemaster has ever gone before to my knowledge despite having a past relationship with Hero Games.

Once BME approaches completeness, you will be able to add BME data files to ERA for Navigator RPG.

You can find the latest ERA on DriveThruRPG.

Solo Play

There is a module in the new ERA that you will not find in the Rolemaster versions.

Voriig Kye has taking the solo rules from Navigator RPG, which are functionally the same as the rules in HASP [High Adventure Solo Play] and automated them in ERA. I will do a post. probably next week on how you can solo play Navigator RPG or any HARP/Rolemaster using the new ERA version.

Rolemaster at Gen Con 2020

Gen Con went down last weekend as a purely virtual affair, and there was quite a lot of Rolemaster activity. I ran two sessions of RMU via Roll20 and there were several other official sessions (I believe of RM2) on Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds. There was also a lively Discord chat that included Nicholas Caldwell, Terry Amthor, our own Peter, and various other luminaries. So let’s get right into it.

First, the biggest news, which came through the chat:

–RMU is advancing through the editing process. Arms Law and Character Law are pretty much done, aside from some examples, and about to move to layout. Spell Law is being edited as we speak. Art is now being commissioned. The developers wanted to know whether customers would prefer black and white (cheaper printing), standard colour, or premium colour (the most votes seemed to be for colour). The timelines outlined suggested that the books could be published as early as the end of this year, but likely early next. A condensed version of the rules will likely appear before this. So we are really getting very close to the publication of RMU rules.

–Nicholas wants people to write adventures and modules for RMU. There was also talk of providing RMU stats for old modules such as the Shadow World line as well (which I think would be fabulous), so if anyone with a good knowledge of Shadow World and RMU is interested in that, I think you should contact ICE.

–One person asked about the possibility of a Spacemaster Unified in the future, and the response was that writers would be needed for that. I was kind of excited about the idea, and confess I was even tempted to take a stab at it. I wonder if anyone else (such as Peter?) might be interested as well, given the recent appearance of his Spacemaster-inspired game.

–ICE is working on establishing its own permanent Discord server. I think one silver lining to all of us having to play by internet is that it has shown the powers that be in ICE land the importance and potential of Discord and the Virtual Table Tops.

In addition to the chat, there were also several Rolemaster sessions. I ran two sessions of RMU and was quite happy with how they turned out. I got to meet some people I hitherto knew only via the Blog and the ICE forums (such as Siltoneous and Amano), as they played in my games.

One interesting fact was that of all the classes available to play, the Warrior Mage was the most often chosen: two players chose him first, and a third had him as their second choice. The class is still very popular! Also popular were the Paladin and the Lay Healer (so each party in my two sessions had a Warrior Mage, a Paladin, and a Lay Healer). The other characters played were Sorcerer, Fighter, and Mystic, though the guy who played the Mystic was a bit underwhelmed by its abilities. Other classes that players contemplated playing were Druid, Magent, Ranger, and Thief.

The players who had not had prior experience with RMU were generally impressed with the speed of RMU and the simplicity of things like spellcasting (no more need for BAR and RR charts!). One player who I think was an RM2 guy was also very happy with the way RMU allows semi spellcasters to cast spells while also attacking (remember that in RM2, casters have very few hit points and instantaneous spells use 75% activity). So that I think is a real selling point for RMU: casters no longer need three rounds to cast a shield spell, and semis can cast a lot more while fighting.

That’s all I can think of now, but I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone else has.

Combat in 3D environments.

3D Combat Risers - Deluxe Set - Clear Mithril
3D Combat Risers for Game Simulation

Back in 2016 I wrote this BLOG that I want to revisit a bit due to some recent work. I wanted to start a discussion on combat in 3D environments with a focus on 3 “terrains”: underwater, aerial. and zero g. While there are specific challenges to each of these, they all share 1 specific trait–the ability of characters to maneuver and fight in 3 dimensions. Before I delve into this, a small disclaimer. There is probably rules for each of these in one of the dozens of RM supplements. I don’t have any of them and I’ve read even fewer. I might be going over “old ground”, but for purposes of this blog, we can also discuss how this might work in RMU. I’m not aware of any rules in the new version for 3 dimensional interaction.

Rolemaster combat assumes combat will occur on a hard surface and attacks will come from front, flank and rear (and maybe overhead on occasion). When you add in a third level of coordinates AND the ability of a players to rotate, turn and pivot simultaneously then things can get more interesting. How should this be handled? There might need to be a separate set of rules for each situation, but conceptually they are similar enough that a shared mechanic might be possible.

Underwater. For anyone experienced with snorkeling and/or diving knows that it can take time to feel comfortable with varying degrees of orientation underwater. But with some skill it’s easier to swim upside down, inverted or rotate comfortable and maintain perspective. But non-native swimmers don’t move through liquid easily or quickly. The resistance of water, lack of fins or flippers and encumbrances of clothing and equipment make movement slow, fast weapon attacks extremely difficult and thrown weapons entirely useless. From a pure movement mechanic perspective, perhaps a simple approach is to set a underwater movement rate/rnd and then establish a % of activity from normal baseline. Other rules could be developed around increased damage from vacuum spells, decreased damage from heat/fire etc.

Zero G. In some respects, Zero gravity is the opposite of underwater: inertia, momentum and mass over enhance basic movements and there is no real force except hard objects or force to offset momentum. Not having real life experience in zero gravity it’s hard for me to intuitively model game mechanics. One idea I have is to leave movement rate the same, but require MM roles to maintain orientation, change or stop an action and orientation roles anytime a change occurs.

Aerial. It’s easy to think of aerial combat in terms of our own experience with lift and thrust. Assuming a magical flying mechanism does not require momentum to generate lift, than aerial combat is a combination of underwater and zero g. A bit of limitless rotation and orientation but with two resistance forces: gravity and inertia.

There are really two overarching issues to tackle: environment specific mechanics that effect movement, combat, spells, breathing etc and the resolution of player orientation, attack vector, environmental awareness and perceptual capacity. This last piece feels like it could be dealt with using a simple unifying mechanic.

In my own adventures, Priest-King has a significant amount of underwater adventures, Empire of the Black Dragon has both underwater and zero g and Legends of Shadow World has some zero gravity as well. I generally GM it with a loose hand and the players tend to find fixed “anchors” to launch from, provide protection from some directions and minimize disorientation.

Does anyone have any thoughts or innovations?

The Armsmaster and the Warlord for RMU

As part of my project of translating RM2 classes into RMU, I am turning to consider a personal favorite class of mine, the Armsmaster/Noble Warrior. I’d be eager to hear your opinions on how to make him awesome in RMU.

As I’m doing that, I’m also considering another pet project: creating a Rolemaster version of another favorite class of mine, Dungeons & Dragons’ Warlord. So if you have any thoughts on the Warlord, now is the time to make them known!

Why am I treating them together? Because I think they are quite similar classes, and work best as semi-spell users with a martial, heavy-armor focus. I’d like to make them into two separate classes. I see the Armsmaster as a kind of supreme individual combatant, a Kensei/Swordmaster devoted to swordsmanship; but I see the Warlord as a battlefield commander/centurion/tactician who is all about buffing and empowering the group as he leads from the front.

Why do I want to bring these classes to RMU? Well, aside from the fact that they are just darn fun to play, I think RMU does lack a heavy-armor based Mentalism semi; and we had one in previous editions. JDale has even given us his own suggested costs for the Armsmaster in RMU. But by default, RMU offers us just the Magent, who is more stealth based, and the Monk, who tends not to use armor at all. What if you want to maximize one of the great benefits of the Mentalism realm (i.e. no Transcendence penalties) to create a more martial semi who combines martial skill with a commanding presence and force of will? What if you want to play as Alexander the Great, William the Conqueror, Saladin, Genghis Khan, or Oda Nobunaga? Then the Armsmaster or Warlord is what you want.

First, let’s do a little history of the Armsmaster/Noble Warrior class. The Noble Warrior first appeared in RM2’s Companion III. He was presented as essentially a Paladin without the religious element: he had an exacting moral code, and high entrance requirements, as Paladins had in past systems going back to D&D, but he was more of a vassal to a lord than a champion of a god or goddess. He was therefore a semi-spell user of Mentalism rather than Channeling. Companion III only offered two new spell lists for him: Noble Armor, which had defensive and armor buffs; and Noble Weapon, which had weapon and attack buffs. RoCoIII advised taking his other lists from those of the Paladin (one list was suggested), Beastmaster (two lists), and Monk (five lists).

Rolemaster Companion VII offered a similar class, called the Armsmaster, with virtually identical skill costs, but presented it more as a kind of soldier-class (without the moral code), and fleshed the class out better with a full suite of five spell lists: Battle Trance; Commands; Encampments; Martial Law; and Warriorblade. These lists included several more group-oriented and military style lists, with spells that buffed groups and military skills (tactics, military organization, leadership), and were useful in mass combat. The archetype here was more William the Conqueror than Miyamoto Musashi.

Finally, the RMSS Mentalism Companion seems to me to have brought these two classes together, under the name Armsmaster, with six full base lists of their own: Armor Mastery; Battle Law; Fortress Law; Martial Law; Warrior Law; and Weapon Mastery. It had both individually oriented and group oriented lists.

This brings me to the Warlord. I see an opportunity here to create two quite distinctive classes for RMU. Many of the Armsmaster spells deal with group buffs, in a way that the Noble Warrior’s spells really did not. There’s enough in the Armsmaster lists to just focus the Armsmaster on individual combat. This version of the Armsmaster could be a lone Samurai, a Kensei ‘sword-saint’ like Musashi, or a knight errant. He would be to the Fighter what the Magent is to the Rogue: namely, a semi-spell version of the class, whose power comes as much from mental discipline and force of will as from physical training.

Doing that gives me the space necessary to create another, more group-combat and command-oriented Mentalism semi, namely, the Warlord. As I understand it, the Warlord emerged out of D&D 3.5 expansion material’s Marshal class, which was intended as a group-oriented commander. (Real history note: the medieval ‘marshal’ was usually the officer who commanded the army on behalf of the king – the king’s tactician, if you will). The class was renamed Warlord for 4th edition D&D, and it was a ton of fun to play. I played one through an entire campaign and in fact it was perhaps the most enjoyable character I’ve ever played.

Reactions to the Warlord class were mixed overall, it should be noted, for several reasons. Some people really disliked the idea of a martial class that could heal; the Warlord could inspire his allies to regain hit points in a way that broke the suspension of disbelief for some players (‘shouting a severed arm back on’ was one common complaint, even if it was a little misguided, since D&D did not normally describe hit point damage in terms of severed body parts). Others objected to the name: in English, Warlord has a somewhat sinister connotation, as a term one might apply to Somali pirates or Taliban terrorists. Still others disliked the class because it was a core class in 4e when some others were left out (e.g. Druid and Sorcerer). And some people criticized the class because they just plain old hated 4e in general.

So how can we translate the Warlord into Rolemaster without cheesing people off? I plan to do the following:

–The Warlord will be a group-oriented buffer, but he will not be healing wounds like a Cleric. He won’t be casting clotting or severe cartilage damage healing or regenerate limb. Instead, his spells will be doing things like granting temporary hit points through spells like Unpain (the Warlord inspires you to push through your pain), fatigue relief (the drill sergeant is on your case to get up and move), and stun relief (your commander snaps you back to reality and gets you back into action).

–The Warlord will have an alternate name or names for those who don’t like the connotation: Marshal is probably the leading candidate, though I also like Captain (which was used in the Middle Ages for someone of the knightly class). We can’t use Leader because that was already used for a pure Arms-using class in Rolemaster Companion IV, and the debate about the term ‘Warlord’ has shown that many players dislike ‘leader’ because it implies that the rest of the party have to take orders from that character.

So that’s the plan so far. What do you think? Are there any particular Armsmaster spells or Warlord powers that you can recommend I include? There are lots of spells to make – 6 lists each for two different classes! – so there’s probably a slot for your favorite. Let me know.

Navigator RPG -Live!

“He who embarks on that fickle sea, requires to possess the skill of the pilot and the fortitude of the navigator, and after all may be wrecked and lost, unless the gales of fortune breathe in his favour.”

Scott, Walter. The Complete Novels of Sir Walter Scott

If you need a laugh, bypass this entire post and go straight to the video at the end!

I want to talk about a few things today. The first if that I am really excited about Navigator RPG. The game has reached release and is live on DriveThruRPG. The game is a free (Pay What You Want) PDF and is also available in full colour softcover and hardback editions.

But why do you care, this is not Rolemaster?

Because it is a complete rebuild going back to the original sources, or close to, and creating everything a new.

There is a huge amount that you will recognise.

Players select their race, they are called Species in the SF version, a culture, their profession, they roll all their stats on d100 and then spend Development points to buy skills.

There is stuff in here you will instantly recognise. You have your stats, professions and skills.

You have maneuvers, attack tables (one table per weapon) and critical tables.

The game is also a toolbox. When I talk about species, they are built out of talents and flaws, but I also show how to make your own. So I provide a few to get you playing and give you the tools to make as many as you want.

The same hold true for cultures and professions.

Everything in here is intended to be extended by the GM.

Open Gaming

Equally as important is the fact that this game is covered by the Open Gaming License. It means that anyone can take what I have done, add to it, change it, publish it even sell it.

Even if ICE were to disappear tomorrow, and forever. If someone bought up the Rolemaster IP and said they were never going to write another thing for it. You can use these books to play Rolemaster, well technically, Space Master but there is more to come.

Pilot RPG

The quote at the top of this article is a quote by Sir Walter Scott, from Rob Roy. This game is Navigator RPG. The next book will be the Fantasy version. That is Pilot RPG, but more ships pilot rather than fighter pilot. There are also going to be some draconic mounts involved.

Finally…

For a bit of light relief I am not going to embarrass myself.

I have started a YouTube channel. It is mainly about the stuff I make and the mistakes that happen along the way. There is going to be quite a bit of Rolemaster in there, as you may have guessed I quite like the game.

The first few videos are desperately poor! I tried and failed to make an unboxing video for Navigator RPG.

Here it is. Please consider subscribing to the channel. When I started this blog I think I wrote twice a week for a year before anyone commented on a post. Starting out can be a bit like stumbling around in the dark, without feedback.

I promise the videos will get better over time!

Grappling with Grappling, Part III: New Options for Grappling in RMU

Indian Wrestler by Lordeeas: https://www.deviantart.com/lordeeas/art/Indian-Wrestler-677553936

In the first two installments of this trilogy of blogs, we saw how previous editions of Rolemaster struggled to simulate grappling, primarily because they tried to fit grappling into the standard paradigm of attack chart and critical chart. This forced wrestlers to choose between being bad wrestlers or good murderers, because successful attacks always did some concussion hit damage, and criticals were both erratic and deadly. The RM2 companions and RMSS/FRP tried to solve the problem by adding new skills, but this just increased skill bloat, without reducing the swingy-ness or the lethality of Grappling. We also saw how D&D currently offers a simple and reasonable nonlethal option for grappling, and how RMU innovates as well by adding a Grapple% to the Grappling critical chart and changing the action economy to one that runs on Action Points.

Using the new tools provided by the beta RMU rules, and simultaneously adopting the best of what previous RM editions and the present edition of D&D have to offer, I here present two options for better representing grappling in RMU. I call the first suggestion the ‘Tweak’ Option because it represents some relatively modest additons to the existing RMU rules: mostly just adding a couple of basic grappling maneuvers. I call the second option the Alternative Option because it offers an another way of resolving nonlethal grapples that you can use instead of or along with the default RMU option. But note that you can mix and match elements of these two options to produce exactly the system you want. You could for example implement the Tweak Option’s two basic maneuvers but also use the Alternative Option’s method of resolving grappling attempts with skill checks rather than attack and critical charts (see below).

Both solutions involve adding some additional actions, or combat maneuvers, to the RMU list of actions and their action point costs. I think adding some specific moves is the secret to enabling varied and realistic grappling without risking skill bloat. Thus, instead of RMSS’s Tackle skill, you just have a Tackle maneuver, which you can use so long as you have at least 1 rank in Unarmed: Wrestling. Now, you don’t have to worry every level up about buying a distinct Tackle skill in addition to Wrestling skill; instead, tackling just enters the repertoire of things you can do with your Wrestling skill. We thus avoid skill bloat while also allowing wrestlers to do all the things they love to do.

Another beneficial feature of this maneuvers system is that it allows you to choose which specific maneuvers you want to add to your game, thus enabling you to tailor the RMU grappling rules to your own playstyle, whether it is simple, complex, or anything in between. You can also easily adjust the Action Point costs of individual maneuvers to whatever you think appropriate for your game. And if you like the system, you can add further distinctive moves for various grappling styles, such as Judo’s rear naked choke, and you can assign them different prerequisites in terms of position, Grapple%, and even skill ranks (or you can keep the move simple, and your combat more fantasy-esque, by just ignoring those prerequisites).

Adding formalized maneuvers works especially well for grappling because although real-life wrestling involves a great deal of improvisation, it also encompasses a vast array of set moves with specific names, both offensive and defensive (single-leg takedown, double-leg takedown, fireman’s carry/throw, sprawl, etc.). These manuevers are thus somewhat analogous to the standard maneuvers Rolemaster has already implemented for its weapon combat (e.g. parry, shield block, dodge, disarm, subdue).

Perhaps best of all, adding these sorts of moves to Rolemaster is now easier than ever, because of the changes RMU makes to the action economy. As Aspire2Hope noted, the shorter RMU round (5 seconds as opposed to 10) makes RMU’s combat considerably more specific and less abstract. The fact that the 5 second RMU round can then be broken down still further, into 4 action points of roughly 1.25 seconds each, moves Rolemaster further away from the abstract ‘flurry of blows’ approach of earlier editions and towards a true second-by-second and move-by-move combat system. It is almost as if RMU were tailor made for this sort of grappling system.

The Tweak Option

            The first of the two options I offer here is the Tweak Option. The Tweak Option just adds two new, basic combat actions – Takedown and Shove – to RMU’s grappling rules and action costs table. These additional actions (detailed below) are the sorts of actions that grapplers are going to want to make frequently, so formalizing them with specific AP costs, prerequisites, and written descriptions provides helpful guidance for how to implement them, mechanically.

I express these maneuvers below in a manner similar to the way JDale presented his combat styles a while back (IIRC, since the forums are down and I can’t check this); I suspect my moves could be integrated into his system with little effort. Do note though that the prerequisites I list are optional, and the action point costs are tentative (feedback especially welcome on these!). These actions are also similar to the combat moves you find in games such as All Flesh Must Be Eaten (thanks Mark for that reference!). The fact that we can express these maneuvers so simply is also a feature of RMU’s streamlined action point system:

Tackle/Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites (optional): Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: You try to tackle your target. Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill check (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top. If you are using tokens/figures and squares or hexes, you occupy the target’s square.

Shove

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: You try to push your target. Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill check (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), or 5’ backwards (your choice). 

Size: The last thing to consider is how to handle size. Because in grappling, size really matters; that’s why wrestling has so many weight categories. D&D as we saw prohibits characters from grappling creatures more than one size larger than their own. But RMU has many more weight categories than D&D, and the RMU categories are more finely graded, so we should probably add some typical Rolemaster open-endedness instead. I suggest that combatants in RMU get a bonus to size-dependent maneuvers equivalent to 50 times the square of the size advantage. So a human fighting a Halfling (one size difference) gets a +50 bonus to any maneuvers. A Troll fighting a Halfling gets a +200 bonus. So yes, the Halfling can still try to take that Troll down, and might get very lucky. But he’ll probably have to roll at least double open-ended to do it. And he’ll have to roll high open-ended 8 times or more to trip a dragon. (If you want a still more granular approach to relative weights, you can use the bonuses in the RMU Feats of Strength rules, which rely on a precise comparison of combatants’ weights even within a size category).

The Alternative Option

            The Alternative Option involves adding a few more moves, but also offers an alternative, nonlethal method for resolving basic grappling attacks: namely, opposed skill checks. This is the system that D&D uses, and it seems to work fine; at least I don’t see too many people complaining that grappling isn’t random or deadly enough in D&D. The system I present here is influenced by the D&D system, and is thus both simpler and in some ways more realistic than the present RMU system insofar as it requires no attack chart (or even critical chart – see below). It also has the advantage of allowing me to grapple my young son without killing him, just like I do every day in real life. This solution also has an RMU twist, though, because it uses RMU skills, and can still use part of the RMU Grappling Critical chart if you want it to. To resolve grapples nonlethally in RMU, then, try adding this move:

Grapple (basic, nonlethal)

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: Make an Unarmed skill roll, opposed by your target’s skill roll (target’s choice of Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, roll a critical on the Grapple critical chart. The severity of the critical is determined by how much your roll exceeded your target’s: 1-10 = A critical; 11-20 = B; 21-30 = C; 31-40 = D; 41-50 = E; 51-60 = F; etc. Apply any results of ‘Grapple%’ to your target, but ignore all other results. All other RMU Grappling rules apply (see Arms and Character Law, 2.7 ‘Criticals and Injuries: Grapple’).

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the Grappling critical chart at all, then the Grapple% you impose with a successful attack equals the amount by which your roll beat your target’s (e.g. if you beat his roll by 30, you impose a 30% Grapple).

Note that this system allows you to resolve grappling attacks without any chart at all. You can still use the RMU Grappling critical chart whenever you feel like it of course, if for example you want your combat to have a chance at being lethal; and you can also at any time switch to the current RMU Grapple attack chart if you want to represent the more hostile grapples of the sort that wild creatures perform, or if the party Ranger is possessed by a demon, and the party Fighter is trying to wrestle him to the ground. You still have that flexibility.

This chartless method of resolving grappling explains how wrestlers can spar for hours without dying due to concussion hit loss. In the Rolemaster rules as they are currently written, which rely on both attack and critical charts, each successful attack causes some concussion hit damage, and even B criticals can be deadly. This means that wrestlers (especially level 1 adolescents) cannot sustain such attacks indefinitely without being knocked out or even killed. In real life, though, a single practice session for wrestlers sees them subjected to literally dozens of attacks; yet they aren’t constantly falling unconscious and dying. This is what I mean when I say a nonlethal method of resolution is actually more realistic at representing wrestling.

Now that we understand the basic system of moves and nonlethal skill resolution, we can proceed to offer some sample advanced maneuvers:

Single-Leg Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill); at least 25% Grapple (position).

Modifiers: +15 to your skill check; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top.  

Double-Leg Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill); at least 50% Grapple (position)

Modifiers: +30 to your skill check; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top.

Rear Naked Choke

Cost: 8 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed or Subdual rank 5 (skill); at least 50% Grapple (position); rear (position); a breathing target

Modifiers: -25 if target is standing; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Having taken your opponent’s back, you leverage your arms around his throat and squeeze.Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target falls unconscious.

Note that the single-leg takedown is better than the basic grapple or takedown: it benefits from a +15 modifier. This is because it also requires that you have a hold of one of your opponent’s legs first (the 25% grapple prerequisite). So if you can set this up by doing a basic grapple first, you will have a better chance of landing it. Similarly, the double-leg takedown has a better modifier (+30), but requires that you have a hold of both legs (50% grapple). Finally, the rear naked choke renders an opponent unconscious, but has the highest requirements and takes the most time: it costs 8 AP, and can only be performed if you already have rear position. These different maneuvers simulate the way a grappler breaks down an opponent.

Suggested Additional Rules

–Close Quarters: If you think these options make wrestling too strong, you could allow a target’s Grapple penalties to be reduced by her RMU Restricted Quarters skill, since that skill represents training in fighting in tight spaces, with a restricted range of movement. This creates an appropriate and pretty effective counter skill to wrestling, but one that only Arms users are likely to be able to afford. (Spellcasters already have lots of other tools for evading grapples, such as Teleport spells).

–Multiple Hands: How do you handle a grappler with multiple hands? You could give a bonus (e.g. +10) to grappling attacks/defenses for each additional hand a combatant employs, beyond the first. Vard Orcs will definitely be happy with that!

–Subdual: One skill that could nicely complement Unarmed: Wrestling is RMU’s Subdual skill. I like the idea of making Subdual an alternative grappling skill that could be used for moves such as the rear naked choke. This is why I list Subdual as an alternative prerequisite skill in my Rear Naked Choke move above.

–Ground and Pound: If you want to simulate an MMA-style ‘ground and pound’, whereby a wrestler first gains position on an opponent and then delivers strikes to him, you can just switch to Unarmed: Strikes once you have obtained sufficient Grapple%. All positional bonuses still apply, and you can still use the default RMU rules for breaking grips.

Conclusion

I could throw some more moves at you, but this is already a ridiculously long article, and I think now you all get the basic idea. You can probably think of many more maneuvers to add. I certainly will, and both earlier editions of Rolemaster (e.g. the Martial Arts Companion) and other games (e.g. All Flesh Must Be Eaten) give dozens more moves too. And that of course is part of the fun of the system. You can create entire combat styles that represent real or fantasy fighting traditions. And you can make grappling as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

            The most important point to note, though, is that RMU already has a chassis better built for grappling than any prior edition of Rolemaster. The action point system, the 5-second round, and the new grappling critical chart all make our job far easier than it has ever been. As long as you are willing to recognize that grappling doesn’t really fit very well into the standard Rolemaster attack chart, and that D&D can have a good idea or two sometimes, then I think the door is open to a much better system of grappling for RMU.

The Warrior Mage for RMU (Homebrew): Spell Lists; Skill Costs; Sample Character; and Discussion

Source: http://www.amokanet.ru/gallery/gamedev/jagger_1598.html
Source: http://www.amokanet.ru/gallery/gamedev/jagger_1598.html

As Brian already noted, this is Warrior Mage week here on the Blog, so here is my version of the Warrior Mage for RMU. You will find the skill costs in Downloads>RMU>Profession: Warrior Mage, and the Spells in Downloads>RMU>Spell List: Warrior Mage Base. I have also rolled up a sample Warrior Mage character (High Elf) that you can use in the same section.

The Argument for the Class: To me, the Warrior Mage archetype is more recognizable than many classes already in Rolemaster – yes, Dabbler and Magent, I am looking in your direction! If you ask someone to tell you what a Warrior Mage, Dabbler, and Magent are, I am quite certain the vast majority will be able to give you a better description of the first profession than either of the two others.

     The Warrior Mage archetype also has a longer history. D&D players call the archetype ‘Gish’. As Mark noted, the Gish has been around arguably since ‘Elf’ was a class in original D&D, when Elves could multiclass between Fighting Man and Magic User. It later took its unofficial name from the iconic Githyanki Fighter/Mages in Fiend Folio (one is on the cover, actually, as you can see below), though they were not yet a distinct class. The Gish was formalized in 4e DnD as the Swordmage class, which had many of the spells/feats the RM Warrior Mage exhibited (things like shield, teleportation, elemental attacks, etc.). 5e cut down on the number of classes overall, but has presented several Gish-type options in subclasses such as the Bladesinger. The archetype then is well established, as attested to by the many names it goes by, whether Gish, Swordmage, Spellsword, Warrior Mage, or several others.

A Chronological History of the Warrior Mage in Rolemaster: But let’s focus on the Warrior Mage in Rolemaster, because it has undergone a lot of changes over the years. Here are the main ones:

     –The Warrior Mage class first appeared in 1987’s Rolemaster Companion II. The original lists included the most problematic of all the Warrior Mage lists, Elemental Ways, which gave the WM all the best Magician spells in a single list.

     I would like to make one important point on this original version of the WM, though: The class sure looked overpowered, but in practice he wasn’t quite as powerful as he seemed. He paid high costs for skills and spells, and on top of that needed to develop an additional skill (Transcend Armor) just to function in armor. His best mundane weapon cost was 2/7, Directed Spells came at 3/6, and Transcend Armor was 2/5, meaning an average character would be spending more than 50% of his entire DP allotment on those three skills alone (and that is with just 1 rank in Transcend). This doesn’t include buying the actual spells themselves (at a cost of 4/*), to say nothing of Body Development, Perception, or even Maneuvering in Armor itself. So I think part of the sharp difference of opinion people have on the Warrior Mage is a reflection of the difference between the people who merely read the Warrior Mage’s spells and those who actually tried to buy them. That said, I freely admit that Elemental Ways was overpowered.

     –In 1989 came what was specifically described as ‘a variant of the Warrior Mage’ called the ‘Elemental Champion’ in the RM2 Elemental Companion. This toned down the WM by restricting him to a single element.

     –Next, in 1990, was the RM2 Companion IV which offered a few more base lists to the WM (the Monk base Evasions and the Open Mentalism Illusions).

     –In 1997, perhaps the biggest change happened in the Essence Companion, which attempted to rebalance the Warrior Mage/Elemental Champion as a way of converting him to the new edition of Rolemaster, RMSS. Here an attempt was made to address the elemental attacks issue by removing the ability to cast elemental balls altogether, and limiting the range of the Warrior Mage’s Shock Bolt to 50’. However, the RMSS Warrior Mage also got to use the same spell (not list, but actual spell: Jolting Blade/Flame Blade, etc.) to give her weapon an extra elemental critical until she ‘threw’ the bolt from it. That was arguably more powerful than an elemental bolt alone! And the RMSS version also allowed the Warrior Mage to use multiple different elements too (she essentially got Shock Bolt at level 3, Fire Bolt at level 8, and Lightning Bolt at level 18), with the higher level spells having greater range.

     –Then in 2002, Fire and Ice: The Elemental Companion gave an RMFRP version of the Elemental Champion. This provided more elemental abilities (including immolation-type effects and the ability to summon and control elementals), but removed altogether the class’s ability to cast bolts and balls; the addendum, however, added the ability to cast bolts and balls (limited to one specific element) to the Closed Elemental lists.

     –Finally Rolemaster Classic gave the Elemental Champion another go, adopting the solution of having the class choose only one element, but retaining the ability to cast bolts (and at level 16, a ball too). This version also gave the class buffs/abilities based on its element (e.g. if you specialized in light you could cast Light).

Overall, then, I think it is fair to say that the biggest problem people have had with the Warrior Mage is balancing their elemental attacks. Each new version of the class has tried to get that balance right. I think we can all agree that the concept of a Semi-Spell User has always been at the very core of Rolemaster, but if the Semi’s spells are as powerful as the pure caster’s, then that isn’t very balanced. That, together with balancing skill costs, is the ultimate challenge of the Warrior Mage.

Ways to Balance the Warrior Mage: After appreciating this history and the challenges inherent in the class, I adopted these first principles/solutions to guide me as I created my own version of the Warrior Mage for RMU. These principles are:

     –We can help balance the class’s Elemental Attacks by restricting each individual Warrior Mage to one chosen element. This solution also has pedigree, as it is almost as old as the class itself, and spans both RM2/Classic and RMSS/FRP. The class should not have access to Shock Bolt, Fire Bolt, Ice Bolt, and Lightning Bolt simultaneously!

     –We can also promote balance by making some of the Warrior Mage’s spells self-only. Spells such as fly, shield, invisibility become less game-breaking when the WM can’t cast them on the entire party.

–One of the reasons the WM was unbalanced in earlier editions was that it got an optional self-healing list (the Monk’s Body Renewal). I don’t think this sort of healing fits in the repertoire of a semi-spellcaster of Essence, especially now that the Monk has been moved to Mentalism. So my WM has no more clotting spells, wound-repair spells, etc. That’s just not his jam. Every class needs an Achilles heal 🙂

     –Finally, we can also use the new tools provided by the new edition of Rolemaster (RMU) to help balance the class. The new tools include new size rules (which can be used to ensure the WM’s Elemental Attacks are a step below those of the Magician), as well as clear rules for creating professions (which help ensure the Warrior Mage’s skill costs aren’t just the best costs for all the useful skills).

Skill Costs: You can hopefully now navigate to the RMBlog’s section Downloads>RMU and find my skill costs for the Warrior Mage there. I have used the RMU rules as written for this, because RMU provides an actual formula for assigning skill costs, and all classes in RMU follow this formula.

In the end, the RMU Warrior Mage’s costs are not that different from those of a Paladin (though the two professions have different spellcasting Realms of course). This cost similarity makes sense to me, since both are martially-oriented semi-spell using classes. Thus, if the Paladin’s spell costs are balanced in RMU (and I think they are more balanced than in any previous edition, because  RMU finally has a system for balancing them), then I think it is fair to say that the Warrior Mage’s costs are finally balanced now too.

Spell Lists: I looked through all the old spell lists for the various versions of the Warrior Mage/Elemental Champion in all previous editions and came up with the following six base lists. They represent a distillation and rebalancing of the old spells:

–Warrior’s Bridge is similar to earlier WM movement lists as well as the Closed Essence: Lofty Bridges. Note that the WM can still take Lofty Bridges as a closed list, at a relatively high cost, but the WM-specific version is cheaper, with the downside that it tones down some of the spells by making them caster only. So if you want to be able to fly, you can make a Warrior Mage. But if you want to be able to make your entire party fly, you’re much better off choosing to be a Magician.

–Warrior’s Element tries to balance the WM’s elemental attacks. It gives the WM the ability to make a bolt, ball, and wall, but only of one element: like the old Elemental Champion, my WM has to decide which is his ‘chosen element’, and can only cast elemental attacks of that chosen element. Furthermore, this list also uses the RMU size rules to ensure that a Warrior Mage’s elemental spells are a step behind the Magician’s in power level. Thus for example, the Magician gets a normal-sized Shock Bolt at level 2, but the Warrior Mage’s version of the spell would be size ‘small’, meaning it does only 75% concussion hit damage, and gets a 1 critical severity reduction. So when the Magician’s Shock Bolt does 24C, the Warrior Mage’s would only do 18B. The Magician still reigns supreme for pure elemental power.

–Warrior’s Shield is based on previous WM shield spells, and provides the basics such as Shield, Blur, Deflections (available to most other classes on other open/closed lists), and some elemental defences. The WM could already access many of these on Closed Essence lists, but these ones on his base list are tailored a bit more to the WM’s elemental focus. They are balanced primarily by only affecting the caster.

–Warrior’s Weapon is based on some previous WM/Elemental Champion lists, especially ones that buffed her weapon with elemental damage. I’ve tried to balance these by comparing them to similar spells at the same spell level on other lists in RMU Spell Law; I tried to keep the levels as close as possible.

–Warrior’s Will is loosely based on some of the WM/EC buff lists, but I’ve added some more utility in terms of buffs to skills such as Attunement (which I think a class like Warrior Mage is especially well suited to, given their combination of arms and spellcasting). And as per my basic balancing principles outlined above, I have removed the self-healing spells.

–An Elemental List: For the final list, I recommend that each WM take ONE list corresponding to his element (the same element that he chooses for Warrior’s Element) from the Elemental Specialist lists in Fire and Ice: The Elemental Companion (RMSS). These give really great flavor to the elemental utility lists because they are focused on a specific element. The Earth list Earth Mastery for example includes the ability to oxidize or sharpen a metal weapon, create a corridor through stone, etc. I am currently working on updating these lists for RMU, but they are mostly usable already, and help to distinguish different builds/varieties of Warrior Mages.

So, if you have some time, definitely take a look at these lists and let me know what you think!

Reading List and Dark Space

Over Christmas, I set myself three goals, one of which was to read the Call of Cthulhu rules. I had only ever played the game, never run it, so was familiar with the rule in practice but had never sat behind the keeper’s screen.

It is now the middle of Feb and I am still reading.

Alongside that, quite a while ago I borrowed Dark Space from one of the guys in my Rolemaster group and I have now bought the book from him as he has said that he will never run it.

This throws up the issue of insanity in Rolemaster. I have written an article about this in the latest Fanzine. The gist of the article is about how dodgy using something as glib as a low-level neurosis spell is on a player or a player who has never experienced mental health issues trying to play a neurosis for laughs could be if you have someone sat at your table that has been struggling with their own mental health.

I don’t think the argument that a group may have been playing together for years and none of you have mental health problems so this doesn’t apply to you doesn’t stack up. People can and do hide issues for years. I know that my long term GM suffered from Schizophrenia for decades before getting a diagnosis. It is also recognized that role-players as a group have higher instances of mental health issues than the population as a whole. Presumably, the possibility of living someone else’s life for a while has an appeal. I cannot find the research right now but I think it was based upon a sampling of US role players so that may not apply globally but I cannot see why it shouldn’t. People are people all over the world.

Since writing the article in the fanzine I have been thinking about this a bit more. Not from a mental health perspective but from a game mechanic point of view.

Dark Space has two options. The first is to use Stress and Depression criticals from RoCoIII, which I am really not that impressed with. The second option is to use a new Stat called Rationality (Ra). The Ra stat is a complete carbon copy of the CoC Sanity stat and you lose Ra points depending on what the character experienced and loss of Ra leads to temporary or long term insanities, which you roll on a table. This pretty much imports all of the potential problems with CoC into Rolemaster.

The Criticals solution is equally crass. It just tells the player to play their character as either depressed or suicidal with a percentage chance of suicide each week.

I am thinking about a solution that has more shades of grey to it. We already have Co drain from the undead, could we have mental [temp] stat drain from a variety of stats. So studying some material that makes you question your very understanding of how the universe works could give you a resistance roll with your Re bonus as an assist but failure leads to a reduction in your Re stat, x number of points for every 10 points of RR failure. But, here is the first of two clever bits, if the trauma were emotional you could use In as the pertinent stat and damage the In temp as a consequence.

We can import the idea of temporary mental health issues from CoC. If you lose 20% of your remaining temporary stat in a short period of time but rather than rolling on a table what we, as GMs, do is you talk to the player and discuss how their character should react to this to that trauma. This negotiated behavior means that two characters facing the same emotional hurt could react very differently. One player could choose to be callous and unfeeling, wall themselves off from others and emotional bonds. Another player may choose to make their character desperate for emotional support.

As GM you are there and agreed with how the player was going to play this personality change. That means that you can use it to reward good role-playing. You know the criteria so you can measure performance against expectations.

Now we have a system that allows you to model different types of stress and trauma, it gives the player an active role in portraying the effects and the character gets rewarded for the player playing their character well.

You could also introduce parapsychology and psychiatry as skills and use these to restore lost tempory stats. There has long been a lack of clarity in how undead Co drain was supposed to be recovered.

New Druid Spell Lists (RMU, Houserules): Druidstaff; Insect Mastery; Stone Mastery

Catharsis, by Kevin Moran: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/P0Dzn

I’ve just adapted and reworked three of my favorite old RM2 Druid lists for RMU. You can download them in the Downloads>RMU section at the top of this website (just click on ‘downloads>RMU if you don’t get a dropdown menu). Let me know what you think!

This is of course part of our ‘Druid Week’. Peter and Brian and Mark have already weighed in on the Druid in their own blogs, so here is my take. I think we do have a split here between on the one hand Mark and Peter, who tend to prefer the RM2 Animist, and on the other hand myself and Brian, who generally feel that the Animist’s spells sucked. I personally play a combat-heavy game, which I imagine deeply affects my expectations, so keep that in mind: these lists are made to give the Druid some mojo.

Despite our different perspectives, I think we can all agree that the RM2 Druid’s spells had balance issues. I agree with Peter’s critique of the power level of several of the RM2 Druid’s spells and lists. However, I would also note that RMU has corrected most if not all of the general Druid issues (apart from the three specific lists I redid) of yesteryear:

–The Druid’s Peace list is unnecessary (and absent) now in RMU, since the Druid already can take spells to put animals to sleep (Druid Base: Animal Mastery) or calm other living targets (Closed Channeling: Calm Spirits).

–There is also no longer any Plantskin spell in RMU, and indeed the wider issue that made Plantskin so great in RM2 (namely, the wonky attack charts and the fact that armor types such as 1, 4 and 12 were ridiculously good) has been corrected across the board in RMU. RMU has also more appropriately balanced armor-granting spells.

–RMU has also tempered the effects of spells such as Spike Growth and Animate Stone, to make them more balanced. For example, instead of the Spike Stones giving 1d4 +100 dagger attacks, we now have Earthen Spikes which just gives a single A puncture critical.

So, RMU has pretty much fixed the general balance issues with the Druid. They have added one combat-oriented list, Nature’s Ire, true, but it is much more balanced than the old RM2 Druid lists. I think this will allow more people to accept a more combat-oriented Druid into your RMU game if you wish. And if you don’t wish, and instead prefer the original RM2 Animist to Druid, then you can just cut out the RMU Druid’s Nature’s Ire list, and you’ll have your Animist virtually intact from what he was in RM2. The spells will be almost exactly the same.  

But the old RM2 Druid spells were really great, and they have not survived into RMU. I still love the flavor and the feel of the old RM2 badass Druid, so I’ve tried to resolve the balance issues by reworking these three lists, to give the Druid more combat options while keeping the balance in-line with other casters.

–Druidstaff brings back the beloved (or behated!) list from the original RM2 Companion I. I’ve tried to solve the issues here by toning down bonuses across the board. I’ve also made the ability to throw the Druidstaff a separate spell that costs Powerpoints (rather than being an inherent quality of the staff). This list is especially good for a Druid who wants to use spells at a long distance and a staff up close/medium distance.

–Insect Mastery brings back a list that was first introduced as an extra Druid list in RM Companion V, and later copied in slightly modified form into the RMFRP Channeling Companion. I have modified it to fit the new RMU action economy. Since the original list often did not give very good guidance on specific spell effects (esp. attacks), I have also given specific statistics for the insects themselves in the notes at the end (basing them on the templates one finds in RMU Creature Law, which gives stats for Bee/Wasp, Giant Wasp, and Ant Colony). I’ve also given stats for the insects’ enlarged versions. I’ve also added a few new spells (Detect Insects and Speak With Insects) to fill a few gaps (thanks to JDale for some suggestions there!). This list is especially good for a Druid who wants to be more of a controller, harassing and poisoning enemies with swarms of insects.

–Stone Mastery rebalances one of the original RM2 Druid lists that was overpowered. I have tried to maintain the flavor and distinctiveness of this list, though, because it was one of the unique things about playing a Druid. I have toned down the most problematic spells in various ways: Magic Stone is now Bursting Stone, which is more in line with the general power level of other casters’ spells of that level (it just gives an A Krush critical). The list also provides variety insofar asa its attacks are not bolts or balls, but real physical items: Hurl Stones uses RMU’s Rock attack table, for example. Druids have been literally brought down to earth. This list is especially good for the Druid who wants to focus on medium- to long-range combat.

As with my other spell lists, these are drafts, and my main concern is balance. So do enjoy, but if you see something that you think is still to powerful, let me know!

Wyrd Bow and Wyrd Blade: New Ranger Base Lists (RMU, Houserules)

Art by Conor Burke: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/m4K98

The following lists are my solution to what I feel is one of the weaknesses of the Ranger class in Rolemaster: a lack of combat spells. You can access them in our Downloads: RMU section, above.

The Ranger has some good utility spells, but imho it has always lacked some combat oomph. These two lists give a lot of oomph. Too much? let me know what you think.

Each of these two lists allows the Ranger to create a personal ‘Wyrd weapon’ (ranged or melee), a magical bow, blade, or other weapon attuned specifically to him or her (or it). They then use that bow or blade to buff their own attacks, striking more intuitively with it (Intuitive Strike), using special arrows with it (Elemental Arrow), having it change shape to grow spikes, etc.

The concept of a ‘Wyrd Bow’ originated I believe with James W. Canavan Jr., who published the list of that name in the Guild Companion in 2000 ( http://www.guildcompanion.com/scrolls/2000/jun/wyrdbow.html ). I have adapted that list to RMU, and also used it as the basis of my ‘Wyrd Blade’ list that extends the favor to the melee Ranger.

Note that the intent is that a Ranger character will only take one of these two lists, picking between being primarily a ranged or primarily a melee character (yes, the shadow of Drizzt is long!). A character can only have one Wyrd blade at any given time, so developing both lists would not be very practical or effective.

These are rough drafts, so please let me know what you think.