Great Rolemaster Memories

I was reading this blog yesterday and it got me to thinking about the topic. Do I try and write adventures with “memorable situations” (cool setting, unique creatures or plot twists), or do great gaming memories derive from something else?

It wouldn’t surprise me if pop culture subtly influences GM when writing material. Shouldn’t an adventure or campaign be framed properly in narrative form, much like a movie script? With so many system specific and generic adventures, isn’t there a motivation to come up with a clever new take on an old idea? Do we try and wow our players with a new obstacle, trap, monster or puzzle?

We all play RPG’s for a variety of reasons, but one unifying experience we all share is a great memory of gameplay. Every player has a favorite memory and every GM can probably relate an equally memorable game incident. But when discussing this with my players and other Rolemaster games, those great memories weren’t necessarily derived from something unique introduced by the GM, or a specific challenge written into the adventure.

For me the one differentiator that Rolemaster enjoys compared to other systems, that comes up often, is the Open-Ended Roll and to a lesser extent Unmodified 66 and 100 results on critical tables. If you think about it, OE rolls are a baked in mechanic that guarantees amazing, some might say miraculous, results during gameplay. Rolling a “20” in D&D is nothing like rolling high open-ended. Over and over, I heard stories of the “Hail Mary” roll, the multiple OE and resulting critical that saved the party, defeated the baddie or allowed for a unusual success.

As a long time GM, I’ll occasionally put my “thumb on the scale” to assist the party, but nothing compares to a player rolling and hitting the “00” when the chips are down. That’s a serendipitous result I can’t write into the adventure and I enjoy it just as much as my players.

During the development of RMU there was a steady stream of suggestions and ideas to improve and streamline the ruleset, but one item that was considered sacrosanct was the crit charts. Despite the negative connotation of “chartmaster”, the majority of the RM community wanted to keep the crit charts! But if you were to dig down, I don’t think it was the charts themselves, but what they represented. Part of the random magic of Rolemaster. That’s what creates great gaming moments that are remembered fondly.

What’s your Rolemaster memory?

As a player did you beat the odds with a once in a lifetime dice roll?

As a GM did a once in a lifetime roll change the game situation radically or take the game in a completely new direction?

6 Replies to “Great Rolemaster Memories”

  1. My character was 300′ up in the air climbing the magical Tree of Life, which had been stolen by evil entities and missing for centuries (or more). We originally had ideas about recovering it, but stumbling across a tree with a mile-wide root system and incredible height, that was out of the question. (Also, being watered with blood, possibly not an optimal situation?) Instead we were looking for some kind of seed or cutting to take back. Thus, here I am, far above the ground. Below, the druid tries to take a cutting — the cutting crumbles to dust in seconds. They try a preservation spell — it lasts ten times as long, but still crumbles to dust. I don’t remember the final combination of cleansing and preservation spells, but they roll open-ended success. Even with their efforts, it was an extreme long shot. But the third cutting survives. The entire remainder of the Tree, however, crumbles to dust. The Tree is not divisible, but it seems it has decided to go with them instead of remaining here. I’m 300′ in the air, no longer supported by anything. I have a Landing spell, that reduces the fall by 100′, how about Acrobatics? A natural 100 roll. So, not one open-ended roll for this situation, but two.

    As a result of this unexpected outcome, the GM has to shift the entire plot. Now we are trying to find the right place to plant the Tree, where originally he expected we would be rounding up a force to return to it.

  2. Thanks Jonathan, that sounds epic! It raised another point about how an extreme dice roll can completely change the trajectory of the game. I’m going to amend the post!

  3. One of my own experiences as a GM was back in the late 80’s. IIRC Companion I had just come out but Shadow World hadn’t been released yet so I was running my own setting. This was the summer after we graduated high school and we were winding down our long term group so we knew it was the “end” of things as we all went off to college/military etc.

    The group made it to the underground city of the bad guy and ultimately confronted the BBEG and his minions but they were horribly over matched. I can’t recall if they were just HP and PP depleted, but this long term campaign looked like it was going to end in a TPK. It really wasn’t how I wanted this story to end, but I couldn’t really do anything to correct course besides a blatant divine intervention.

    My best friend was playing a Cleric and he was moving out of state and probably wouldn’t come back for the occasional game over school breaks or summer. I think 2 out of 3 PC’s were down and the battle was going to end in just a handful of rounds when the Cleric asked if he could do a ‘Retributive Strike”. Conceptually, this idea came out of the AD&D Staff of the Magi?, but I believe there was a high level spell that had just been introduced in RMCI that was similar. The Cleric had some type of talisman but there was no real mechanism for this at that time. It could have been a energetic release of his remaining PPs, a prayer to his God, but I allowed for the idea that a willing self-sacrifice could create such an effect. I asked him to roll and I remember those rolls to this day, over 25 years later. 00, 97, 99, 91.

    I used the sum of those rolls as an attack on the Fireball table with an AoE of 25’. Divine Cleansing Fire. The Cleric was incinerated with the release, but the party was saved and the battle was won. It was a great end to that player and his character and a worthy end to that 3 year campaign.

  4. We ran a campaign in Middle Earth. Without going into all the lead up, we were in the upper levels of a tower trying to retreive the Phial of Galadriel. It was just floating in the middle of the room. Obviously a trap. But we had no way to move forward without just sprining the trap.

    Our group was often known for getting away with things that we really had no business getting away with. Flubbing a stealthy version of a prison break and resorting to simply fighting our way in and back out the front door. Stuff like that.

    We’d run into a Nazgul earlier in the game and barely made it out alive by going full defensive and reteating.

    So, a player who is a standard member is playing with us for the first time in the Middle Eart campaign. Warrior Monk character.

    One of the characters in the room grabs the Phial of Galadriel. Two secret doors open to either side of the room and TWO Nazgul step out.

    As the player who hadn’t face one before says ‘I ready my staff’ the other four players, in near perfect unison, say ‘I run.’

    We’re running down stairs, teleporting, literally jumping out windows.
    The pure caster we had cast fly and went out the window and I (a Rogue) just blindly jumped out after him and grabbed his feet’.

    The Warrior Monk player looks around and says something like ‘Uh, on crap, I guess I run too!’

    There was quite a chase and we got away in the end, but that Warrior Monks face when everyone but him just instantly bailed was classic.

  5. I had just begun to study about Japan when my much beloved magician died. We had a quite punitive GM so if you died you just had to accept that as your own fault.
    In this game world was a kingdom which was basically feudal Japan. So I made a samurai using oriental companion. I bounced some ideas off my GM who gave me some special powers such as hauling a katana as a javelin.

    The campaign had started with the players being from a village that had been destroyed by an enemy force invading. Over the course of the campaign most of the original Characters had died off but the group had manage to reclaim an area and setup a huge temple there and even had a small army. It had moved from adventure master to state master essentially. The GM wanted to return the party to being hunted or just plain adventurers so a neighboring duke sent his bigger army to evict us.

    My character stood in the front row among the archers. There was some parlaying during which my character noticed a magic user playing idly with what seemed like glass balls containing pure fire. It was obvious the duke would not back down.

    I asked my GM whether I could through adrenal speed, iai and I believe adrenal quick draw, draw and throw the katana of the soldier standing next to me at the commander and then follow up with an arrow shot at the magician.
    He gave me some penalties and we started rolling for all to see:
    I barely made the iai maneuver but the attack sank deep into the chest of the commander, unhorsing him . I was then informed I had thrown my own magical katana as the abilities would only work using bonded weapons.
    The arrow was shot, catching the magic user in the shoulder causing him to drop the caged fireball.
    The fireball attack (rolled in the middle of the table was UM100 following by a deadly critical.

    I cannot remember whether we won or lost the battle but the GM got his wish: the PC characters decided to move on from the temple, not as vassals of the neighboring duke, but as outlaws for killing his son …

  6. In the same campaign and builder of the temple, a dwarven cleric with Light Law (innate magician), had taken some novices out for an adventure along with the main party.
    We encountered a huge pack of wolves. The cleric stepped in front of the novices, announcing to the world that he would show us all the Might of Thor and cast a x4 damage lightning bolt with no round of preparation on the leader to scare them all away.
    Being an innate magician as long as the result was not a negative Open-Ended it would be glorious! … instead the dwarf ended up brain dead with his novices eaten by wolves and the rest of the party fleeing as there were simply too many wolves.

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