Just a thought…Diceless and bookless RM?

This was prompted by an idea that edgcltd put out there this week. He mentioned Hero Kids and the success it has achieved in bringing RPGs to a very young audience. Its very existence is great for our hobby. I honestly do not think you can make a viable Rolemaster for the 4yr to 10yr old market…”Sweep lays foe out and heel strike
to foe’s sternum collapses the ribcage. Foe is helpless and dies in 4 rnds.”…is the sort of thing that makes Rolemaster great and I just cannot translate that into fluent 4yr old.

But how about 12yr old?

I was fettling about with a spreadsheet last night and came up with something that looks like a playing card. In the top left is an open ended dice roll. You can add your OB to that and deduct the opponents DB. below that is a 5×3 table with the attack roll down one edge and three armour types across the top. They are unarmoured, soft leather/light mail and rigid leather/heavy mail and plate. The body of the 5×3 table has the damage and critical result for that weapon against that armour for that roll. A row would look something like this.

Slice to foes chest. +12 hits and bleeding 2 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round.-10% to all actions Cut to foes chest. +9 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round. Cut to foes chest. +8 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Must Parry 1 round.

There would be a pack of cards for each weapon, the result above is from a Dagger card on a total roll of 100, so it retains the unique weapons. The cards retain the A-E criticals and the location specifics. Some critical include armour breakages, fatal wounds and witty comment that we all know and love.

It gains armour by the piece as you can see each card is tied to a location so if you opponent has no leg armour then you apply the No armour column. If you strike him on the head and he has a full helm then you apply the heavy armour column.

The cards are generated by spreadsheet and can build in all the features of the Arm Law specifications such as slash criticals against lighter armours and crushes against heavy mail.

Using the same methodology I can make static actions and moving manoeuvre cards with a themed dice roll plus a simplified Absolute Failure to Absolute Success. One pack of cards for influence skills, one for perception and tracking, another for picking locks and disarming traps.

Initially I thought you would need too many packs of cards but then it would be no more complicated than the board game Talisman and my group love that game.

I could imagine each player would buy their own sets of cards. If their fighter uses a broadsword then you would want the broadsword pack, it they used a heavy crossbow then you would want the crossbow pack. Later on there may even be a market for additional packs to give different and new criticals.

Taking onboard other comments from the last couple of weeks then I would write a completely open source/ OGL simplified character generation set of rules.

What I am looking at is a really simple feeder game to try and attract a younger audience into Rolemaster. The mechanisms will be familiar the skill system will work the same way, combat will work the same way but the natural progression will be from cards to the ICE rulebooks.

I would like to keep the entire rules down to about 40 pages or less as Hero Kids which is the most successful of model has a 39 page rulebook including sample characters, stand up figures and first adventure. I am aiming at a slightly higher age range but we wouldn’t want to be accused of being rules heavy would we?

So the question is, if you could be 12 again and there was a version of Rolemaster just for you what would it be like? What would any feeder version NEED to have?



9 Replies to “Just a thought…Diceless and bookless RM?”

    1. Yes, I agree. Right now I have put it on my to do list as I can only cope with so many projects at once. I can keep coming back and tweaking it as I am inspired. I need to focus on the 50 in 50 adventures first.

      I have other exciting things going on in my RPG life right now as well. I finished the page layout of my d6 game this morning. I need to give it one final proof read and then it is off to the printers for the proof copy!

      1. Once you have a version aimed at 12 year olds, it might then be possible to distil it further for 4-10, going in stages rather than all at once.

        A print version? I’ve been considering doing that for my longest supplement – basically because I’d like to see it in print! I had thought it might be a bit short, but I’ve seen other publishers doing pod books for only a couple of dozen pages.

        1. My d6 game rules run to 84 pages.

          The print version of the RolemasterBlog Monthly, a Rolemaster Fanzine ran to 36 A5 pages and it is approved for printing. I am just waiting for the proof copy to arrive before I can put it live.

  1. I’ve never been a fan of games that use cards. Too easy for them to get lost or separated from the game proper. And then what do you do?

    Frankly, the first RPG I ever played was TSR’s Top Secret and I was about 12 at the time. TS used d100, and only d100. It was simple enough for us to figure out, but had enough flex in the rules we could add to it as we learned more about the system and what we wanted it to do.

    A feeder version needs to integrate more or less seamlessly into the main product, and to my way of thinking that means it should use dice. Unless, of course, you want RM to go card only. You can ease people in with simplified tables and mechanics, but you need to get them used to dice as well.

  2. I certainly don’t want RM to turn into a card game.

    I was looking at hero kids and one of its selling points is that it is a d6 system so ‘no special dice are needed’ to quote the game. I can see the logic of that and can see needing 2d10 as a barrier to entry for completely new players.

    I have not looked at the level of mathematics teaching in different countries but if the age range for this feeder system went as low at 10 to adult then at the bottom end RM math could be a challenge. RM is not really at d100 system. It is a d100 open ended system. The difference is that 02+96+40-25 =-159 but 96+02+40-25=113. That being a +40 OB vs a +25DB. Rolling all the open ended rolls into particularly lucky or unlucky cards makes it both unnecessary to explain open ended rolls and takes away a lot of negative number mathematics.

    The loss of cards would not be an issue. The cards could be made available as free PDFs so you just put stock card in your printer and print them on demand. Players can have any number of cards for any weapon, skill or spell pretty much on demand. Alternatively they could buy a book of cards on heavy weight paper and guillotine them into cards.

    I was walking the dogs earlier and I thought I would need four professions. Fighter, Thief, Magician and Lay Healer but simply renamed to Healer. That allows me to introduce Realms of magic and professions.

    I think I would include four races human, elf, dwarf and hobbit as they fit with the LotR/hobbit films which must be a major introduction to fantasy for young people.

    1. Perhaps. but where’s the stimulus for them to transition up to full RM, especially if the trimmed down version is much easier to play? Another aspect I think of is developing new GMs. One of RM’s biggest weaknesses in any form is that it’s very GM-intensive because of the nature of its rules. The more complex and ‘fuzzy’ they make some of them, the more you need a skilled GM to keep things moving.

      Don’t get me wrong – I understand the need for a ‘feeder’ of some sort for RM. But there needs to be a mechanism to ease people from the simple cards to the (to me) overly-complex encumbrance and other systems that can clog RM if you try to use them all. Sometimes it’s easy to forget once you’re an experienced GM just how hard RM can be to implement.

      1. I think you are right about the difficulties in implementing RM in all its detail. I think that is why myself and other GMs embark on these simplifications.

        If every ‘book’ from the rule book to the books of cards included an ‘Introduction to Rolemaster’ that started with the questions of “Do you want more professions? Do you want more races? Do you want more spells? If you do then Rolemaster by I. C. E. is a flexible and modular role playing game that can give you every thing you need.”

        That would build the transition into feeder game. I am not saying that exact wording, this is just off the top of my head. I would imagine anyone to buys into a system would always want ‘more’ and at the very least would be curious.

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