Getting into the Adventuring Spirit

Last week I was putting together the latest Rolemaster Fanzine. I had written one adventure and when I was looking back at it, the issue seemed a bit light, so I wrote another adventure dedicated to Siltoneous and Majyk, who suggested the monsters.

In the past twelve months, I believe I have written and published 20 adventures for the different versions of Rolemaster.

Zero Magic

I was thinking of doing some Zero-Magic adventures based upon the stories of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Although the stories hint at magic and witchcraft, there is no explicit magic in the stories.

Brutal Rolemaster criticals and no magical healing is a tough mix. That then begs the questions of would it work and would it be fun?

The question of viability comes down to if there is no way of healing characters beyond regular medieval healing, the first aid and second aid skills and maybe medicine and surgery. A mortal wound really would be a mortal wound.

Or would it?

Is this not the perfect place to implement FATE points. Spend a fate point to either re-roll a critical against you, or have the GM downgrade it to the next non-fatal critical to the same location. A bit like a RMu called shot in reverse.

I know there was a Robin Hood campaign set, from back in the Fantasy Hero days. I don’t have the book any more, but I know a man how has and I could borrow it if needs be [I still have his copy of Dark Space, but he doesn’t want it back].

As I remember, there was virtually no magic in the Robin Hood campaign book, which is how I would have it.

Healing herbs is something I am thinking about. Without them it reinforces how special the lack of magical healing is. With them, every PC will be buying herb lore and they will be trying bypass that element of the setting. I think that is a shame.

But, would this be fun? I think the magic ingredient is the FATE point. If you character is going to die through an arbitrary bad luck dice roll you are less likely to get invested in them and their adventures. On the other hand, if you had one or maybe two FATE points, where you would feel relatively safe when you had both, but the first time you used one you would be noticibly closer to living on the edge.

Use both your FATE points and I think you would feel positively vulnerable.

Big Magic

To me, it seems like if you are going to do a campaign of no magic, one should do something afterwards to compensate. To please the people who do like magic, powerful wizards and wonderfully evil witches.

Keeping it all in keeping, a campaign of Arthurian Legends would be the logical (to me at least) next game. Arthurian legend comes with built in magical weapons in Excalibur. Powerful spell casters with Morgana and Merlin, the mysticism of the lady of the lake and the enchanter Menw ap Tairgwaedd.

You have monsters such as the questing beast and the giant Ysbaddaden, and some classic foes in the Black, Red and Green knights.

It almost feels like these should be done Arthurian first, because that is closer to a classic fantasy game, but rich in legendary lore, and then run the Robin Hood campaign afterwards to continue the ideas of battling around England slaying foes of literary history.

Which Way To Choose?

I can see two ways of running this. The first is to have as much as possible, as authentic as possible. It would be extremely difficult to write them as drop-in ‘one-off’ adventures and encounters like we did for the first 50in50. these would need to be saved up and used as part of a new game set in 9th century Britain.

The second option is that only the GM knows that the characters are playing knights of the round table and members of Arthur’s court. What the characters see and hear is that of a local warrior king and his knights and retinue. The ‘real’ characters identities are a bit of a private joke for the GM.

I prefer the first option, but it would make the adventures less immediately useful.

The legends of King Arthur are called the Matters of Britain. They are one of the Matters, or great cycles, The others are The Matters of France and The Matters of Rome.

The Matters of France dealt with Charlemagne and his Paladins and The Matters of Rome dealt with Alexander the Great and Julius Cæsar. You have to admit that a series of adventures covering several thousand years, [I am not putting a number on it because I will be wrong and Hurin will correct me 🙂 ], must sound tempting.

I would prefer option one, making the adventures part of an obvious Arthurian campaign, with the name characters and places such as Avalon and Camelot. A GM could always choose to rename and reposition the adventures into their own world. The real names do at least conjure the right images, in my opinion.

What do you all think?

8 Replies to “Getting into the Adventuring Spirit”

  1. A Robin Hood campaign would be awesome! It’s actually not that far off my own historical period, so it feels pretty familiar to me. I do have the Robin Hood sourcebook, though I haven’t read it in detail. I remember it amps up Herbalism (I think makes the herbs pretty easy to find) to fill the role left open by the reduction in magic, though it does also suggest giving some characters magical abilities if you want.

    The ‘Matter of Rome’ was a bit wider than we would consider ‘Roman’ history; think of it more as Greco-Roman history. With Virgil, of course, the Romans literally tied themselves to ancient Greek history, seeing themselves as descendants of the Trojan hero Aeneas. So for the late medieval authors, the ‘Matter of Rome’ could go back as far as the Trojan War (long before Rome existed).

    I am gearing up for a new RMU campaign, and torn between a more traditional adventure in the newly covered quadrants of Emer (part III is out and part IV seems close to following), or a Time and multiple-universe travelling campaign (based on the Fritz Lieber novella Big Time) where the characters get to travel to different times, in different multiverses. If I do the latter, I get to see the characters participate in a Viking raid, save a Pharaoh from assassins, become musketeers, and meet Robin Hood. It would be so much fun for me as a historian… but it might be a bit much for the players!

    1. That could have some very interesting conflicts. Dropping a fully-fledged magician into a world where magic stars with accusations of witchcraft and with a big stake.

  2. I have a hard time not thinking of Chaosium’s Pendragon game and related campaign modules when it comes to Arthurian-based games. Even if you don’t use the chaosium rules, they’re excellent source material.

    1. I made a character once in Pendragon (early 1980s) and I think played once session. All I remembered was having to roll to see if I could vault on to a horse as part of some rite of passage.

      I see Arthurian legend as rich in magic, but not particularly high magic. It is not dissimilar to Middle Earth in that manner.

    2. I remember playing some sessions of Pendragon when it first came out. It was pretty fun, but we had to stop when one of our players kept getting terrible luck and seeing his character die every session. He gave his string of bad luck the tagline, ‘A knight a night.’

  3. I have been toying around creating a pseudo-Arthurian campaign setting for some time. Pseudo, as I’d throw in anything I found interesting, whether relevant for the time period or not.

  4. I think that for short modular adventurers the ability to apply them to different settings is extremely helpful. It’s useful to have a pick-up-&-play thing that can be slid into a campaign with minimal fuss. On the other hand if a number of interlinked adventures is the idea with characters devised for that campaign then that is less of a consideration and you might as well go the whole hog. Personally I find the RM rules suit a long campaign that is planned to last at least a year. If I was going to design a RM character I want to know that I’m gonna get as much as possible out of it.
    I like fate points. I use them and I’m fairly generous with them. I use the 1 fate point gets a reroll, a second vetos the critical entirely approach (just take hits). It works for me. In my own campaign I have very little magic healing but I do take a generous approach to what can be accomplished with first aid (stabilise and stop bleeding), second aid (minimise long-term penalties through bed-rest and good care) and surgery sklls. While several characters have had lasting injuries (a crippled magic user and a warrior with no nose only one ear and a couple fewer fingers) I’ve managed to go down the limited magic healing path successfully in a fifteen year (admittedly roleplay focused) campaign and the characters haven’t splurged on the healing skills (with the exception of an ex-military surgeon who had a good reason!).

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