My No Profession & Level-less House Rules

In the past I wrote a fist full of posts about character creation and advancement in Rolemaster Classic without professions or levels.

Rather than leaving these as a scattered collection of posts spread over two months I have brought them all together in a single PDF. I have stripped out every mention of RMU for two reasons. Firstly, the RMU I know is the beta version and is liable to change before publication and secondly I agreed to a non disclosure agreement to get access to the beta documents. It is not right to then disclose any of the RMU rules in this case.

So having sanatized the document and collated it I ave also edited it and removed a shocking number of typos (I didn’t realise how bad my typing gets at times!). I have put the finished document on RPGnow where you can grab it for free just by sticking a 0 in the price box.ppn-rmc_professionless_levelless_roleplaying
I would be interested in hearing what you think of them when taken as a whole.

8 thoughts on “My No Profession & Level-less House Rules”

  1. You have probably said it elsewhere, maybe on the forums or in your own blog, but why did you feel like getting rid of professions and levels?
    Levels I can sorta understand, but with such a flexible skill system and so few mechanics directly referencing lvl I think I lose most or all of my reasons.

  2. The problem I see with professions is that when you get up to the 50+ professions that RM2 introduced (I think it was nearly 100 professions in all with something like 72 spell casters) what you really have is a combination somewhere that has the cheapest costs for exactly what you want to play, it is sort of built in min/maxing. If you are a rolemaster addict then you probably know every profession inside out and can pick exactly the profession that gives you all the advantages and no disadvantages.

    Going with No Profession eliminates all of that professional bloat and any intentional or unintentional min/maxing.

    One of the core premises of Rolemaster is that any character can do anything but the reality is that once you have chosen your profession you are very restricted. RM doesn’t have a multi-class system (I know HARP does) so there is no real way out. If your magician ends up being transported to a magic-less world then at 20DP per rank for any weapon beyond the first and only 1 rank per level you are really stuffed!

    Getting rid of levels was was in part to help address a few issues. When you get into the higher levels (late teens and early 20ths) the way that level bonuses work meant that you could buy a single rank in a skill, add on your stat bonus and your professional bonus and voila you have something like a +80 or +90 skill having never having ever used it.

    The experience system if you play RAW is very cumbersome with having to record virtually every swing of a sword to correctly portion out the experience. It was also very combat centric. Getting rid of levels removed the experience system.

    The big change in levels vs level-less is in the magic system.

    Assuming a caster learned one list a level from 0th up every time they leveled up they would gain one spell in every list plus their level’s worth in the new list. A fifth level caster would gain 6 5th level spells plus 1 4th, 3rd,2nd and 1 1st; so 10 new spells. At 6th level they would gain 7 6th level spells plus 5 lower level spells for a total of 12 spells. Even if they had not cast a single one they would advance in all the lists up until 10th and then it starts gain with the 11-20th parts.

    Basing things on ranks and on actual spells cast makes the casters abilities reflect their practice. I also found that the same lists were being bought again and again. Every magician has invisible ways, lofty bridge, spirit mastery. This way spell lists are not ‘fit and forget’, rather they reflect what the caster actually does.

    If you are going up against a levelless spell caster you cannot make assumptions about their lists, if they have spell x then they automatically have spell y because they are the same level and we know he has that list.

    Finally the bookkeeping is time taken out of level up characters is significantly less when you are just rolling d100 and trying to get above the current skill bonus. The only reason is youare not trying to balance a budget of 40+DPs spent on skills taken from maybe a total 10 core books and all the companions. There are no DPs to spend so no foraging around in books to find the costs and scope of all these skills. Some people love having nearly 200 skills, some people don’t, that is largely academic. If you are using a skill or get training in a skil then it will improve over time regardless.

    Finally when you get to what I see as very high level, 30+ leveling up is a slow process. You may desperately want to buy a skill but because of having to spend your DPs to denote what you are learning in the previous level you now cannot even start to learn the new skill until you level up and then you have to level up agian before you get your first rank in it. This way if you get that training then you can get that first rank unless you are veryunlucky while it is still relevant to the adventure you are doing.

    All in all I find Rolemaster is faster to get games up and running and easier to manage without levels or professions.

    Just bare in mind that these are just my house rules and I am not criticising the system in any way. What works at your table is right for you, just as RMSS is right for some and RMC and RM2 is right for others. No variant is better or worse than any other in my opinion.

  3. I completely acknowledge and agree with “what works at your table”, but I am still curious about the path you took.

    As you probably know all material in the RoCo books were not intended to be used together, and that goes for Professions and skills. I totally see the min-maxing in allowing a full selection of Professions, which is why I never did. Allowing Leader was one of my worst char-gen decisions, especially with the abstract description the Tactics skill had. Nipping that in the bud would have avoided that problem to begin with.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s how RAW spell acquisition worked in RM(2). When you learned the B(A?) section of your base list, you learned 1-10….*now*. You didn’t gain the 5th lvl spell when you turned 5th lvl, you already had it. That’s where your selection of over-casting spells came from. So there’s no “if they know X spell on Y list, and we’ve seen a spell from P list, we know they have Q spell because it’s at or below X’s lvl.” It’s “if we see spell P, we know they have M through S because that’s the section they’d learn.”

    RAW experience is combat and even Arms centered, absolutely, and it’s the first thing I house-rule. I even tried doing it RAW at the beginning of my current campaign, but couldn’t stick with it. (I think ChL&CamL should have pointed out that casters were still expected to be competent in battle, gaining Body Dev & Weapons each level, even though that meant slowing down Spell List Acquisition. I think it’s another Middle Earth influence remnant–at least in the movies we see Gandolf use a weapon as much or more than cast spells.) I kept levels though, I just increased casting rewards and made maneuvers worth something by themselves not because they were part of a move that generated experience (which in RAW meant the maneuver had to be part of an attack.)

    The core premise of doing anything does not mean that it will be easy. (Just last night my wife and I were discussing how culture viewed being restricted and being content as being at odds.) I have a Fighter in my campaign(RMU) who started picking up spells a few levels ago. Sure he has to pay 1/3 of his total DP to get a single spell, but once he thought the trade-off was worth it(considering what skills he would stop advancing) he did it and has clearly been enjoying that he did and hasn’t winced about the 20 DP once.

    As for high-level professional bonuses, my understanding is that the professional bonus is not held back until a rank is learned, it is always present. So that first rank bought is a +30 swing, from base bonus -25 to +5, same as any other skill at any other time. This example character would have a +50 or +60 before even buying the rank and thus has probably been using it.

    The depth and length of play is the #1 variable in what problems people see in the system, in my opinion. I played in a weekly campaign which went over 2 years, and our highest level characters were 10. In RMU it will be easier, especially since you really aren’t an adult until lvl 4-5, but in RM2 leveling took forever, so I have no idea how people get to 15+ nor what the system is like out there.

    So in summary I guess I’m not seeing the same issues with the system as you did, partly because I filtered RoCo content, understood some rules differently, and me never seeing lvl 11+. But there’s also a bit of you wanting to see skill progress organically, like in an Elders Scrolls game, which I completely get. I have brainstormed on turning the DP costs into variables for a TES-like system, and now that I have some experience in Call of C’thulu I have seen an established system which uses that kind of approach to learn from.

  4. I agree with almost everything you say above. I think RMC and RM2 works best in the level range 5th to 15th.

    I wrote about a thief I played in a high level game (we started as 10th level chracters and he was 23rd level when he died). He learned spell lists, the cost was 12DP a rank but the GM allowed to add your stat bonus to the SLA roll so 12DP = 30% chance of learning a list. He ended his days with 5 lists I think.

    Amongst our group and a couple of spin off groups RoCo material has slowly crept into the game. Once an optional rule was allowed in the players collectively wanted it to be always there. Some of them don’t own the rule books so do a lot from memory (it was done that before so they do it that way now sort of thing). So over the years and decades the optional rule count has gone up and up.

    My personal experience was that I met resistance in trying to cut out these optional rules. If I disallowed an optional rule that made magicians slightly less powerful then spell caster players got upset and the same went for each and every profession. the same sort of went for the professions, and the skills.

    When I went all out and said OK here is a completely different way of doing things all that resistance disappeared as it didn’t feel like one profession was being penalised as it was obviously EVERY profession that was being penalised ina way. Everyone is truely equal. What the players liked about Rolemaster was the spell lists, the criticals and the skill. My rules gave them all of those and the character management became so much quicker that after a couple of sessions they loved it.

    So for me the system itself grew organically and I had to tweak stuff here and there to get it as you see it above.

  5. I can see how having sets of optional rules per GM would be hard, and yeah book availability at the table would be lower back then. Heh in that first game of ours there were 7(?) players and we only had one copy of each book, so RoCo2 was in high demand!

    1. You should also bear in mind that I am a minimalist. I carry my entire game back and forth, mostly by train, between sessions. As soon as you dump all the companions the game is physically much lighter!

      That was not the prime reason at all but just a nice bonus.

      Not tying DPs to stats improves roleplaying. If you want to play a forgetful and irratic mage then you can put a low stats in Memory, Empathy and Reasoning to fit your character vision and it will not impact on how many DPs the character gets each level. There is no disadvantage to building the character you want to play. Sure the guy will be hampered with skills based upon Memory but you wanted to play someone with a bad memory, it all fits the character.

      Not using dice for stats means that someone who makes 10 luck rolls on day one of the game does not outshine everyone else. The thief I have talked about before had good stats, that gave him a few extra DPs that gave him a few extra skill ranks that give him a few more opportunities to earn experience that gave him a bit more experience per session. We are talking just 3DPs difference at the beginning of the game but that turned into me gaining 13 levels in the time it took some of the other characters to gain 10 levels. I also made 13 stat gain rolls to their 10 and I ended gaining more DPs from my stats sooner than they did so I was accelerating away. Point buy systems make those problems go away.

      The experience point system is borrowed from Chaosiums games and I just extended it to include stat gains. If you start to develop skills that way then levels and DPs are really of no use. For the most part you can just compare skill rank vs skill rank for resistance rolls or use rank as a synonym for level in spell descriptions.

      In practice my house ruled system plays exactly the same way as off the shelf RMC, it is the same magic system, the same stat system and the same skill system. It is just easier on the book keeping. There is no limit on the type of character you want to play, if you want to be a fearsome barbarian then act like a fearsome barbarian and the skills will come to you. You want to hang up your sword and become a monk then do it and after a suitable amount of study and devotion you will get that first rank on the new professional skills and from then on practice makes perfect.

      A fellow GM and I tried to unify our RMC/RM2 games by debating and evaluating each optional rule through all the core books and companions but as our world settings were so radically different unifiying the options was not possible. His world almost every family has one or more spell casters, in my world each community may have access to a spell caster such as one witch between a whole cluster of villages or a single priest in a town. These world setting choices drive which optional rules you need to emulate that world in the rules. It also causes rule creep.

      I ersonally have never played a character profession that was not one of the core professions in Character Law as those provided me with a broad enough base to create any vision I wanted.

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