Monster Snobbery

I am perfectly happy to admit that I am a snob. Not just any kind of snob though, I am a monster snob. I am running my campaign set in Faerun and the Forgotten Realms but using Rolemaster in preference to AD&D. There is no problem doing that and Rolemaster gives you a set of conversion rules (Creatures and Treasures pg 92-93) for doing the job. As it happens the majority of common monsters have already been converted so there are not that many to do most of the time. So where does the monster snobbery come from?

Part of the conversion process from AD&D to Rolemaster is in balancing the adventures. A pair of 3rd level AD&D fighters may well wade through 2-24 Kobolds but you try that in Rolemaster and you have a pair of very dead fighters on your hands probably in under 30 seconds. You need to balance the encounters for the much more dangerous combat system for a start. Sometimes you can just reduce the numbers encountered but that often just isn’t an option. Any sensible Dark Lord would not just put a single guard at every gateway, they don’t use just three warders to escort the party of five PCs who have just been captured and that viking longship did not just have two rowers!

So  if you cannot balance the game and the challenge there where do you look? Many of the Forgotten Realms source books provide starting adventures and that is where my party of adventurers are right now below the Tower of Ashaba. In addition to the Drow they are going to have to fight, the main point of the adventure, there are a number of incidental encounters.

Here are the cast of monsters (just the races not the numbers) that make guest appearances as one-off encounters:  Aballin, Cave Badger, Gambado, Gelatinous Cube, Huge Spider, Moray Rat, Mud-man, Piercer and Rats. That is quite a cast and that is in addition to six additional races including a Drow priestess and an evil magician that make up the core adventure.

Now looking at the supporting cast an Aballin is a pool of intelligent living water and a Gelatinous Cube is a giant single cell creature. It is these two that I have a problem with. Funny enough a Mud-man I can cope with. There is enough wild magic around (akin to Eassence storms on Kulthea) to animate a Mud-man, after all there is an awful lot of life in a pool of goo. I just cannot believe in malignant intelligent water or giant cubes of jelly.

Working on the principle that I am god ergo I don’t like it so it doesn’t exist. And that is probably the ultimate snobbery. If I don’t like you, you don’t count. This also goes part way to the balancing of the adventure.

There was another creature in that cast that you may not know, the Moray Rat. This is a Faerun creation and one that I do like. I will share the stats for them in a future post.

7 Replies to “Monster Snobbery”

  1. I don’t think this is a case of monster snobbery, rather it’s that RM is a better system. There is far more freedom in PC creation, monster selection, and therefore… campaign setting creation. You simply have more to work with in RM. If you were to try to take a D&D campaign with the D&D monsters and put them against RM PC’s in a RM setting, it would be a boring session. You would have to beef up the D&D monsters to make it interesting.

    It’s not snobbery at all. RM simply gives you more tools with which to create. Michelangelo would still paint a great masterpiece with 8 colors, but if he had 64 colors at his disposal, think of the fun he could have.

    1. Two points, firstly I when I was playing D&D I had no problem with Gelatinous Cubes, green slimes, ochre jellies and all sorts of weird and wonderful creations. As a RM GM those monsters just do not pass my believability test. Secondly I don’t really hold with the idea of ‘best’ when it comes to games. If I had been given RM back in 1979 I don’t think I would have coped with it. It is a bit too involved, realistic and demanding of the players and GM alike. In 1979 when I was given basic (Red Box) D&D for Christmas I was more than capable to playing it, introducing friends to it and getting hooked for life. Which is the ‘best’ system in that situation?

  2. I didn’t say “best”, I said “better.” You were referring to the monsters and the options you have in RM and I agreed with you; RM is better and I don’t believe that’s snobbery at all. I had the same “believability” issues with some of the D&D creatures, but it’s a fantasy rp game and I still play the system on Monday nights with my group of friends and I have fun with them. I would prefer RM, but I am one voice vs. eight other voices, so I lose out.

    I think White Wolf has it great with the dice system, PC creation, and rule set for World of Darkness/Vampire/Werewolf; something I don’t think RM could ever pull off. I dread to see what would happen if RM were somehow converted into a Vampire game system.

    I was fortunate in that I met a group of 6-7 players who were already into the RM system and understood and taught/guided me in the early stages and made it much more easy for me to fall in love with the system. Honestly, there is no way in heck I could have or would have even TRIED to learn RM on my own, straight out of the box on my own. It really is overwhelming and I ran into that when I tried to bring that same group of eight players into RM for a short campaign. It was rough going for a couple of weeks, and these are all adults who have been gaming for 20+ year each.

    1. My first ‘taste’ of Rolemaster was actually the red covered MERP book. That was a really good system for introducing people to the RM way of doing things and everything was in a single book including a first adventure. The advantage it had was that Middle Earth was so accessible as most fantasy rolepayers know and can visualise middle earth.

      To have RM land in your lap with no firm campaign setting is a big ask as the rules are unending with multiple books, hundreds of tables and half a dozen companions and then the need to choose to use or not to use options. All that when you may not have the experience needed to make the choice and understand the impact on your game is a very big undertaking.

      I have never done vampires in RM but I do have a Frankenstein’s monster type adventure planned for my players.

  3. The group I started out with had all of the MERP books and they were all well used. One GM used them alongside RM when he ran sessions. There was something in MERP that he loved and felt it was better than the way RM handled it. I’m not sure what it was, but it always seemed like MERP and RM went hand in hand.

    1. We started with MERP and then added Arms Law/Claw Law and those work perfectly well together. We then added in the different location books. Mirkwood was the first I bought and the stats didn’t look right with the MERP characters. That lead to Character Law and the rest is history as they say.

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