For a game system that was predicated on “no limitations” for player characters, I still find the need to cling to Professions curious. More importantly–beyond PC creation and occasionally leveling–do Professions serve any other purpose? Is a Professional label important for NPCs–the most generally the predominant characters in a game world?
Besides acting as a general trope label, NPC’s in ICE products still list out all skills, skill bonuses and spell lists. Unlike D&D, there are no intrinsic skills or abilities imparted to professions at various levels in Rolemaster. The Profession listed on an NPC stat might give a GM a “sense” of that character, but what really matters is the stat block itself. There is really no need to know a Profession for an NPC–only their stats and abilities. That’s the whole point of a skill based character system.
In Shadow World Terry pretty much throws away strict adherence to Professions; in my mind this an acknowledgement of the creative limitations such a system produces. Loremasters and Navigators are clearly a Profession, but due to RAW, are first assigned a standard RM Profession and then given extra base lists. The Steel Rain, Priests Arnak etc are all given extra lists on top of the Profession (whether it be Mentalism, Channeling or Essence) with NO REGARD to realm limitations.
As a GM do you build an NPC from the ground up? When creating a 22nd level NPC do you go through all 22 levels of character build using Profession skill costs?? I don’t, I just fill in stat blocks based on a general sense of power level and the narrative needs the NPC serves. Have you looked at any NPCs in MERP or Shadow World and analyzed whether the skill stats have any relation to Profession skill costs, ranks or bonuses?
My point being that “descriptors” are more useful to me than some arbitrary Profession assignment in an NPC stat block that serves no other purpose in the game mechanics. Unless PC’s know the NPC’s Profession and then make meta-gaming decisions based on that, they serve no purpose.
That means, in practice, that Professions only serve a purpose for a handful of people; the 2, 3 or even 5 players in your group. All those rules, all the arguments about skill costs and the nitpicking about whether Weather Watching should be 2/3 or 2/4 for a Animist seem complex for complexity sake.
I’m building a city in Shadow World: Nontataku. Like any RPG city, this is an NPC intensive environment. Per RAW (RM2), I need to assign a Profession to shopkeepers, blacksmiths, porters, etc. Obviously giving them a RM Profession is absurd. Assigning a shopkeeper the Profession of “Figher, Thief or even Mage” is pointless. Some versions of RM do add non-adventure tropes as additional Professions (craftsmen, laborer and even “no-Profession”) but, for me, that is just another example of “Rule for Rules”.
For me, simple descriptors like “Shopkeeper” or “Loremaster” or “Merchant” work better than some arbitrary, and limited, Rolemaster profession.