Death is too good for them!

One of the things I wanted to do in last weekend’s game was to kill a PC. This is not as mean as you think because the party is rich in Life-Giving magic. The point was to really drive home to them that they are taking on really dangerous foes and the stakes are high.

Obviously, I didn’t tell them that I was out to kill someone. I didn’t ‘cheat’, my intention was just to unleash a situation that by rights they should not get out of unscathed.

Would you believe they survived?

They took down a 20th level lich with a lucky shock bolt. They killed a Brass Golem, which came close to killing a warrior mage at least. They took down a Cave Worm. The party average 7th level but they were killing multiple 10th to 12th level foes and BBEGs in the 20th level range.

Admittedly they were rolling like demons for most of the session and there is not much you can do about that. If the character rolls a multi-open ended attack and a 95+ critical they beasty is going down.

The one thing that came closest to killing anyone was bleeding. It is a long time since I have seen someone come close to death through blood loss. At one point a character was bleeding 20 points per round from accumulated wounds. As it was they were saved by the cleric using flow stopping.

You would have thought that killing a character would be relatively easy but my problems were caused by my players’ tactics. They held nothing back. After the first combat of the day, in just 7 rounds they expended about 85% of their power points. They were largely relying on there being no second wave of enemy. If there was then there was a serious risk of a TPK, which was not what I wanted to achieve.

It is a long time since I have done a dungeon crawl with them, I think it is about time I did one. If they know they cannot get away with a 5-minute workday maybe they will start to think a bit more strategically.

Coming Home To Roost

One of the funniest moments, in the game I was running, was when the parties past indiscretions came back to bite them. The party was trapped in a basement level of a castle. The castle’s guardians, the brass golems, were stomping around above, the only passageway they knew of out of here was blocked with rubble. They could have used longdoor to get up to the entrance level and try and escape, there was a magical portal into a watery world of hideous dark gods that they could have passed through, there was a magical transportation portal they could see through to an oriental looking palace they could have passed through and there was a secret door down to a lower level. The secret passage was under the altar to an ancient ‘old one’ and stained by the traces of blood sacrifices. Their initial investigations showed something dark moving in the shadows under the altar.

The party chose none of these and rather attempted to overcast Teleport to the crypt of a temple they had stayed in for a few days much earlier in their careers. Unfortunately for them the last time they had been in that temple they had found several silver altar pieces which they had sold off once they were way on their adventures and a few casks of sacramental wine which they had drank some of and the rest had used to try and get some orcish mercenaries drunk.

At the time they had thought nothing of this.

When they then tried to teleport into that same crypt the goddess herself intervened and made damned sure the teleport did not succeed, kicking the character back to where she came from with a severe ticking off about how one should behave when on sacred ground.

The lesson being that if you are going to steal the silver off of the altar in a church, you had better make sure you never need to go back there in an emergency.

Tomes of Cthulhu by another route

Egdcltd (Azukail Games) has kindly sent me a copy of Tomes of Cthulhu. This supplement details 40 books, journals or tomes to add colour and detail to a Cthulhu based game.

Like nearly all of Azukail Games supplements this is system neutral so if you were running a Rolemaster based Cthulhu game you could use this just as easily as alongside one of the official Cthulhu games.

Each book is steeped in details about how it was written, the author, where and how it was lost or found and they are all suggestive of adventure hooks. Not all Cthulhu is based in the 1920s so the book descriptions consider the influence of time between writing and the game setting. It looks like a lot of thought and work has gone into this supplement.

This got me thinking about Rolemaster and Cthulhu. My Cthulhu experience was all with the Chaosium game which was very much based on the RuneQuest game mechanics with a bit of insanity thrown in.

So we already have insanity, if sorts, with the Fear rules. Parapsychology was an essential skill in those games and there is no difficulty in adding a skill to rolemaster for that purpose.

Making magic unavailable to the players is not something that requires a rules change, it is simply a GM/world building choice. It was my experience that magic was slowly revealed to the characters as the story developed.

The magic itself as far as I can remember was more of the summoning and control style so putting together customised spell lists would be easy enough. Anyone who was a keeper of the secrets  (GM) would have a better understanding of the spells needed.

There is nothing here that RM cannot cope with except one thing.

The go to weapons of the 1920s and 30s were firearms. I have always felt that guns in RM and Spacemaster for that matter were disappointing. I had always used Spacemaster until I discovered 10 Million Ways to Die. Even with the add on book guns are not really any better, 20 or 30 hits plus a critical just do not make guns scary. Spacemaster 1st edition was by far the worst with a 11mm Automatic doing a maximum damage of about 15 to 20 hits against unarmed targets.

I know this is intothatdarkness’s speciality but it had never occurred to me that this is the only thing stopping people from running a perfectly capable Cthulhu game using Rolemaster rules.

I know this is a little premature but this is something that RMU (for muskets and the like) and SMU (should it ever happen) needs to address.

So I have wandered off topic a little but if you were looking to run something a little different then consider this take a copy of Don’t Let Them Take You Alive (PWYW) for the setting, Tomes of Cthulhu ($2.99) for a bit of flavour and your favourite RM/SM version with guns and have a fun night of horror and insanity.

“what is necessary, but nothing more AND nothing less”

I continued to be a big fan of RM/SM until 1989. I could see ways to do just about every gaming setting, and several non-gaming settings (Aliens, Dune, etc.) using those rules. But, something happened over the summer of 1989. I was at DragonCon, and a naval war gamer challenged me that if I need more than 1 sheet of paper (4 pages) for rules, for a war game, then that was too many. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t get away from the idea of minimalism.

Though, he was an extreme-minimalist. Minimalism isn’t “the least”. It’s “what is necessary, but nothing more AND nothing less”.

The quote above comes from the Stargazer’s World site in a comment on Michael Wolf’s review of RMU. The comment was by a regular contributor called Johnkzin.

It is an interesting idea, what is necessary, but nothing more AND nothing less.

I have had that going around my head all week. They are talking about wargames and RPGs are not wargames. What that means to me is that to play the game at the table the monster stats are not part of that 4 page limit. Monsters and their stats are easily condensed down to what the GM needs at the table but the monster book is a resource and not ‘rules’.

I think spells and spell lists are part of the PC or NPC. You can give your players a copy of their own lists, I think that is pretty much common practice, and the same for NPCs. The rest of spell law is just reference material and not rules needed at the gaming table.

I also think that character creation is not needed at the table and does not need to count towards our 4 page limit.

That removes a lot of bulk.

So what do we need? Arms Law for one and skill resolution for a second. Base Spells and resistance rolls for third. One is relatively big and the other relatively small and spell casting is just a simple look up. So how low can we go?

The following two documents are a single page (2 sides) super condensed combat and skills resolution version of Rolemaster. This is really not intended to challenge Arms Law in any way and it is not meant to be historically accurate. You will also notice that it draws on bits of MERP, bits of RMU and everything in between.

What you get is a single attack table that is generic but below it are modifications for each weapon so to all intents and purposes each weapon is differentiated.

You get a hit location system using the units dice to give a 1-0 result.

The critical is then rolled for that location and the bonus damage, stun and bleeding scales with the critical severity. The GM also has to insert descriptive words like blow/strike/hit to vary things a little. Each critical does come in two parts for armoured and unarmoured so what looks like just 16 possible criticals is actually nearer to 100 possible outcomes.

Why would anyone ever want to use this?

One of the best roleplaying sessions I ever played in took place on bicycles riding though country lanes. We used the stop watch function on digital watches (this was the early 80s) for dice and we knew our characters and the rules of D&D well enough to not need any books. That sort of game session is almost impossible with Rolemaster because of its table dependence. On the other hand if you had a dice roller app on your phone and just these two pdfs you could pretty much run an impromptu game session with nothing else.

I would go so far as to say that you could run an entire game session using this and most of your players would not notice the difference unless a particular favourite critical should have come up.

This is a bit too minimalist even for me but it was an interesting experiment.

Does anyone think they could do a 2 page character creation? I suspect I could, but then I have had a week’s head start.

Rolemaster Races & Monsters: Friends or Foes?

I’m curious and interested about exploring niches of Rolemaster and fantasy RPG’s in a novel way–subverting tropes, high level adventures, monsters as PC’s, eliminating the Profession system etc. In my last blog I discussed some one-off adventures I’m working on that consists of a party of “monsters” and both Peter and I have written blogs about certain creatures being classified as a Race or Monster. All of this touches upon whether various creatures or traditional monsters would make good PC’s–a subject I’m looking forward to exploring much like I’m doing with 50th lvl characters.

But these questions ignore the broader issue–why are certain races and creatures “Monsters” or adversaries to begin with? Should PC appropriate races be determined by a race’s intrinsic morality? Does RMU’s creature creation system open the door for any creature (assuming a base level of  intelligence) to be played as a PC? Assigning levels, special abilities and skills to creatures draws them into the Character Law system–why not open the door a bit wider for PCs–not just more traditional races, but “monsters” as well?

 

Perhaps the residue of Gygaxian Naturalism reinforces our views that monsters reside outside the natural world and setting. Without a childhood, ecosystem, culture and hopes and dreams these monsters lack the foundations of “Personhood”–they are merely there to be obstacle to the players. But what if that weren’t the case? Perhaps your game world would be like the cantina setting in ANH or TFA–filled with an endless variety of races, creatures and monsters anthropomorphized for the purposes of a working game narrative. Perhaps “monsters” aren’t inherently evil, but motivated by the same self-interest and beliefs that direct us all.

 

What Merriment One Can Have With a Broadsword and a Drunken Elf!

Somewhere in our deep dark roleplaying history someone made a mistake. They had misread the racial description for Elves and rather than making them immune to normal diseases had made them immune to normal poisons. This had a consequence of making it impossible to get an elf drunk.

When my last campaign started I wanted to correct this error and pointed out the rules where it shows the immunity and resistance roll mods to show the players that we had been doing it wrong all this time. I was amazed at the players reactions (if those that wanted to play elves.) The ability to drink anyone under the table was really important to them despite the fact that is was a blatant mistake on our part.

They were adamant that elves cannot get drunk. I tried to argue that if Alcohol doesn’t effect them then how do all the healing herbs work? The answer was that herbs were magical and alcohol is natural. There is no helping some people so in my game now when ever an elf takes a healing herb I make them make a resistance roll and if they make the roll then the herb has half the usual effectiveness. Believe it or not the players are happy with that.

That little story has nothing to do with today’s post. I just wanted to share it as I was creating an Elven NPC and I just saw the immunity to disease on the character sheet!

So What Is It All About?

The last fanzine I published was the Halloween special and it is proving quite popular. The Shadow World issue was the best selling version to date. Don’t get me wrong, these sell in tiny quantities but I am hoping to build the readership over time and I hope it will grow significantly once RMU is released.

I would like to create a Christmas Special and pack it with cool playable material. Adventures, magic items, maybe a Grinch monster, some Icelandic Christmas Trolls and some festive spell lists. Really what I am asking is for anyone who like to contribute anything to a Christmas Special then please do.

I am trying to make the Fanzine a GM’s resource. By putting monsters and adventures in a ‘paid for’ publication then there is less chance that one of their players may have already have read the plot and know the twist or the villain. The Halloween Special includes three adventures and ‘new’ monsters, as these are my own creations I am free to publish them. All a GM would have to do to play them is create a couple of NPCs.

So try putting your creative hats on and send your submissions to weareareallawesome AT rolemasterblog DOT com!

 

#RPGaDAY2017 19th, 20th and 21st

I am sure that bulk answering these questions twice a week completely misses the point of #RPGaDAY but to be honest I don’t care.

Yesterday Sparta commented on a post I wrote at the beginning of July. The significance of that is that we are obviously reaching new people and they are looking at what we are writing. This is a good thing. I have no idea but it is entirely possible Sparta and others found the blog through the #RPGaDAY hashtag.

Insidentally one of the most most common good search phrases that brings people to the blog is [shadow world amthor]. The busiest day so far this month was the day that Brian mentioned the fanzine on the RM Forums!

Anyway, I digress.

19th Which RPG features the best writing?

This is a really subjective question. What is best writing anyway? The D&D Basic box set (red cover) that got me started had a life long impact on me so that must have been pretty good I would say.

I am actually going to put forward Champions as my answer though for this question. That was a brilliant system and the rulebook was a pleasure to read. It also changed the way I thought about RPGs and character generation forever.

20th What is the best source of out of print RPGs.

The only sites I have ever looked at for these are ebay and amazon marketplace. I guess the point of this question is that if you scanned twitter for the answer to this question then you are going to find a few gems of sites that are little known but will worth knowing about.

I bet scribt has a load of old RPGs uploaded as illegal copies, you seem to be able to find just about anything on there!

21st Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I assume they do not mean shortest rule set. I know there are tons of one page ‘rulebooks’ out there. I am going to answer with CarWars again. We used to role play it ans I think the game has a single character stat for your life which was 3 if you were healthy and maybe three skills driving, combat and mechanic if I remember rightly. So your entire character sheet was 4 words long and 4 numbers. The vehicle character sheet was a box with maybe 6 sets of initials, MG for machine gun, RR for recoiless rifle, PR for puncture resistant tyres and so on. It has to be the game with the least vocabulary of them all!

That was a brilliant game and we spent months playing a CW campaign with just these couple of skills. The next game I played after that was champions and the game after that was RM2. Champions and RM2 were all about skills (and powers), that is what what defined your character, that is what allowed you to craft exactly the character you wanted to play. But that was the impression I got with just Character Law and shortly afterwards Companion I. So at that point there were maybe 45 skills. Over the years we added every companion and all the Laws but with 200 skills the characters were no more unique. In fact I think the most skills that were added the more similar the characters became. Some of the skills became essentials such as tumble attack and tumble evade, two weapon combo and iai strike, at least in our games. The same was true of herb lore and sense ambush.

I suspect that that experience of playing CW with the 3 word (4 words if you include the characters name) character sheets may have stayed with me and gone some way towards inspiring my super light RM variant. You never know.

#RPGaDAY2017


I was tempted to try and post every day for August but that would have crashed a lot of other people’s posts so instead I am going to do a few days at a time in my normal, regular slots.

So here goes.

1st What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

I have had a hankering for a while now to play Car Wars, the Steve Jackson Games game from the 80s. I know it wasn’t released as a RPG we we always played it as one. The original rules are available for free. All I am lacking is another player or 5. It is one of those games where you could while away a lot of down time just designing and building cars. Fast and simple mechanics, what not to love?

2nd What is an RPG you would like to see published?

This has to be RMU. I think all of us would like to see the finished product and to see that particular production bottleneck cleared so ICE can get on with releasing more and more varied products.

3rd How do you find out about new RPGs?

For me it is from other bloggers. In particular http://www.stargazersworld.com/. I don’t have enough players that meet often enough to try every game I would like to play. Like most of us we have shelves of games we have bought and played a handful of times, if at all. I find it more interesting to read the opinions of people who have actually played a game rather than the marketing hype put out by the games designers.

4th Which RPG have you played most since August 2016.

This has to be Rolemaster Classic. In a close second is my own game, 3Deep, which is due to be released in print as a 2nd edition. There was a lot of play testing of that in the last year.

Third in line is RMU.

I’m Your Greatest Fan!

I was thinking about NPCs today. In particular about NPCs that join the party. I know some GMs like to throw in an NPC healer just because RM is so bloody dangerous that someone needs to keep the characters alive.

I am not a fan of NPC healers. I like having an NPC to give me a voice in the party. I am not sure that is always a good thing.

So, I am there happily thinking about NPCs and suddenly thought “There is a plot idea!” Imagine an NPC that is so entranced by one of the PCs that not only do they want to be in the band but they want to get rid of the others so they can have the PC to themselves.

So I am thinking along the lines of a cuckoo in the nest sort of plot with the NPC as the cuckoo. This could slowly ferment and bubble away under the skin. You could always have the NPC run short of herbs just when they get to which ever PC is closest (emotionally) to the ‘target PC’, or happen to ‘not hear’ requests for healing if it is a chaotic situation.

How soon before you reach a crisis if the healer withdraws their support?

This is an off the cuff thought this morning but scarily this is the second post I have done where the Healer is the bad guy.

Does that say something about me or should we not go there? 🙂

Weekend Roundup: May 5th 2017

I’m straight out with projects, but I wanted to get something posted today to maintain our 1 post/day goal for this month! After this month, for the summer, I expect we’ll slow the posting frequency for the next few months so we can finalize the 50in50 adventure challenge and get some other files finished. This would be a good time for guest bloggers, so if you have any interest reach out to Peter.

Every news article is an RPG idea!

If this is true, how much power in a Dragon bite?

Real monsters…are real. And this is just freaky.

Mana from the heavens.

Cool? Reminds me of this book series.

Rise of the Althans…it’s beginning.

Early attempts at Ritual Magic.

Everytime we try to frame the future in a Scifi RPG, reality seeps in…

First it was time crystals…now “Hyper Crystals“….soon “Essaence Crystals”.

THIS requires more discussion or an in depth blog post.

 

 

Blog Intro Death and Dismemberment

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Dyson’s Dodecahedron as a great source of maps. Today I thought I would mention Lloyd Neill’s occasional Death and Dismemberment blog (http://deathanddismemberment.blogspot.co.uk/).

Neill is an OSR/D&D and Rolemaster enthusiast and house rule fan which is kind of a prerequisite for Rolemaster GMs I guess.

This is relevant particularly given this weeks discussion on OSR. Last year there were some interesting discussions on House Rules. I am not a fan of OSR roleplay as it, in my opinion, just a thief tax but each to their own.