Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths pt II

I think that the variety of spell casters that Rolemaster provides makes the system very flexible. The profession you choose defines not only the spell lists available but the skills that profession is inclined to buy, illusionists are observant, mystics subtle, mentalists are a bit gungho. The spell lists open to each profession also help define that profession, obviously. If Rolemaster stopped there then it is possible that all magicians would end up the same, all clerics the same and so on.

That is the situation with D&D last time I played it. Every magic user was desperate to get to 5th level so they could cast fireball. If you made that that far then finally you had the fighters’ respect and could do something they couldn’t. Rolemaster doesn’t stop there though. The magic is only just beginning.

There is a really important part of the Spell Law rule book on magical research. What this relates to is creating your own spells to fit into the spell lists you have learned. Most spell lists in Rolemaster do not have one spell for every level. There are gaps in the spell lists so you may have a 1st level spell, a 3rd, 4th, 7th and 10th but no spell available for the other levels. Illusionists for example have no spells at all between 15th and 20th. With spell research you can either fill in the gaps in your spell lists or define new spells to sit alongside the existing ones. There is really no reason not to have two 5th level spells.

It is quite a good starting adventure for a new spell using character to have his master send him some where to complete some research and give him a spell that no one else has. There are loads of really simple things you could do with just first level spells. As an example if the player wanted to play a fire based mage and has Fire Law then researching a Detect Fires spell. Give it the same parameters the other detection law/mastery spells but allows the caster to detect fires through walls, floors and ceilings. This will teach the player the mechanics of researching spell and open them up to the potential.

I have one player that always misses not having ‘magic missile’ in Rolemaster. I think Shockbolt is meant to fulfill that roll but it is not the same. This is one of the things that spell research is meant to address. You want it your way? You got it! As the advertising slogan says.

Researching spells takes a week per level of the spell for spells 1st-5th level and 2 weeks a level for 6th-10th and so on if you are researching a spell to fit into your own lists(in RMC, RMU uses a different formula). In addition to the time you need access to research materials; books, ancient scrolls, other mages research and so on. Here in is the basis of a first adventure, get to a library or another spell caster’s personal library and complete the research, that is the reason for the spell user to leave his master and set out in the world.

With spell research in play you can have two spell casters of the same level and profession, knowing the same spell lists and even freakishly having the same stats and number of power points but playing completely differently and having different abilities because they have researched different aspects of their spell lists.

The rules (in RMC) literally take up less than two pages in Spell Law so this is not a complex, advanced players option despite the fact that many GMs and players treat it that way. The sooner you get your players creating their own spells the sooner you will have them putting their own stamp on their characters. Then of course you have the option of having players teaching spells they have learned to other characters. This only takes a quarter of the time but does make player cooperation really interesting.

Now even with professions, spell lists and their own custom spells Rolemaster has even more to give the magic user. I will continue with that next time.

2 Replies to “Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths pt II”

  1. Ah, so I am not the only one who has seen the “cookie cutter characters” in D&D. Roll up 10 magic users in D&D and their starting stats will be nearly identical with the “17” being in Wisdom or Charisma depending on which realm of magic the caster draws from.

    Even 4-5 levels into the PC development, the spells are ALMOST identical for Sorcerer and Wizard. The stats haven’t changed until level 4 when the player has an option to add +1 to a stat.

    I would argue that a GM in RM could have five Magicians with totally different stats, and completely different spell lists for each. Let’s assume a safe estimate and utilizing Level 0 PC creation, a 1st level mage could have 4 spell lists. So going with a conservative average, we’ll say Level 1 Magician has 3 spell lists. Five Level 1 magicians could have 15 different spell lists between them! 🙂 That is awesome variety and creative freedom and opens up so many options for the player.

    1. Most GMs all stat bonuses on spell gain rolls and if that is the case then yes it is certainly possible to get to spell lists at level 0/apprentice and another 2 at level 1. As a GM I do not allow stat bonuses. This means that the 1st level spell caster will probably get 2 or maybe 3 spell lists at 1st level. I have found that having less lists but being actively encouraged to develop those lists gives more creativity and in later levels spells from righ up and down the spell lists are used.

      I was in a game session in February where there were two high level spell users. I was playing my 15th level illusionist and another player was a 23rd level magician. We bypassed a lot of an evil temple by identifying where the ‘dungeons’ lay under the town above and used Long Door to drop down near the evil bad guys lair, we fought some lackeys outside the lair and then burst in on the guy. He was something like a 39th level evil cleric or so. Start to finish the maigician used about 130 power points because he habitually uses only the most powerful 4-5 spells on every list. I was just as active through out the fight and I used 38 power points and at one point I even cast a 2nd level spell (silence 5’r) to mask the sound of our combat outside the lair. There is nothing wrong with always going in with all guns blazing as long as you have a plan B should the encounter go on longer than you anticipated.

      Limited choices at the beginning forces the players into making the best use of those few low level spells and it trains the mind to think that way even when they do have more options leter on. if their lists are completely unique and hand crafted to fit their characters vision then even better. It is much easier to research 1st – 5th level spells during an ongoing campaign so the spells that do get created tend to be these low level spells.

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