Power Point Development

All long term readers will know that I am a fan of ‘fixed’ #hits. It gets rid of a DP sink, removes the concept of people being able to be hit several times with a sword and survive just because they are high level and it makes low levels slightly more survivable. My version is based upon Co and SD and racial bonuses, stats do progress up towards their potentials so there is a slight increase in #hits over time.

Thrud posted on the forums yesterday about the reasoning behind being able to develop power points as a skill and then called into question body development as another example. You can read the post in the link above but I have quoted it here.

Stepping away from the rules for a while and instead just going with reasoning alone. 
Some aspects of a person are innate abilities, others are skills learned. 
Innate abilities grow stronger as you mature, but you can’t really practice them. Skills need practice for you to improve. 
Looking at a person quantified as a rpc. What is a skill and what is an ability?
You could easily argue that as you become better/more proficient at casting a spell, it should become harder to resist. 
You could also argue that it’s not a matter of proficiency, but your overall power that grows when you level up. 
Maybe it’s both?
What other aspects of a character should be seen in the same way? IMHO power points, since I don’t see a magician practicing getting more power points…
What about body development? Does it seem realistic that you practice not dying from wounds? Or is it more reasonable to see hit points increasing as you level up and become more powerful all around?
Shouldn’t there be a similar mechanic in place for resistance rolls?
What else share these characteristics?


Power Point Development as a Skill

I can rationalise PP Dev as a skill quite easily. Taking an Essence user as an example, they utilise essence from the world around them. There is essence in everything and everywhere. To cast a spell they gather that essence and then utilise it.

I am going to use an analogy of a juggler. They also gather things from around them and utilise them. An inexperienced juggler can keep control of two or three items whereas a master juggler of far greater skill can juggle chainsaws, chairs, clubs and axes all at the same it. Simply through the training their skill in juggling their ability to gather and control increases.

Don’t like that one? Then here is another analogy.

A biologist may know only a few genes in a specie’s genome. With that knowledge a few medical problems may be addressed. Over time and with study more genes in the genome may be learned and the capabilities in genetic medicine that the biologist has increases with every gene that is understood.

If the genes are power points and the medical treatments are spells you have an example of PP dev as a skill.

Looking at the Skill

I quite like the PP dev skill. As a GM I can tweak the cost to act as a throttle on powerpoints and consequently the prevalence of spell casters in the game. Under RM2/RMC rules one bad stat gain roll on your realm stat can wipe out many or all of your power points for an entire level. Now should anything happen to your realm stat it isn’t good but at least you can function.

I think there is a stronger case for power point development as a skill than there is for body development. You could even go so far as to scrap #hits altogether. Forget them completely even on the combat tables. Just read off the critical from the combat table and roll it. You do real wounds to each other until either one of you is unable to defend themselves or a fatal wound is delivered. Bleeding is simply accounted for after the fight to work out how many minutes you have to live before you bleed out. 20/amount of bleeding would work. By that time your companions have either saved your or you bled out. I am not recommending this but I suspect it would work. Most fights seem to last four or five rounds and end in a debilitating critical. It is relatively rare to grind down someones #hits to zero.

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Stepping Forward

I am going to get to the big step forward later but I am going to tell you a story first.

My step son is an artist. He qualified with a degree in Fine Art last year and to the best of my knowledge he is the only one of his contemporaries that is actually keeping body and soul together working in art. He works most of the week as a freelance artist’s technician and the rest working on his own art in a rented studio space. As you expect as a artist, living in London, he has no money.

At the hospital I was in in Aberdeen a local philanthropist had built a 1000 space multi-storey car park for the hospital. The hospital has 1000 beds so he had one parking space for visiting every patient. The parking is also free. His inspiration for the car park was when he wanted to visit a friend in hospital and could find nowhere to park.

When we were talking about this my step son commented that this was the flaw in philanthropy, it is all on the whim on the philanthropist and what else could that money have been spent on.

I counter argued that this was the strength of philanthropy. If more than one person had been involved in the decision process they probably would have argued that improving the public transport links would have alleviated the pressure on local parking and been more environmentally friendly.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is actually the main hospital for a massive swathe of rural Scotland and while the arguement for public transport is true, no public transport system can reach every tiny hamlet or cluster of houses and with the frequency to make visits to see patients viable.

I can see the point that if you don’t own a car, that better or free public transport would be attractive. I think that as soon as you get to the committee stage probably nothing would have ever happened at all for years.

The point of this story is that I have noticed that I am applying the same principle to Navigator RPG. By keeping it all to myself I can forge ahead without the possible delays in discussion. This is really selfish but when I do ask for help it is when I really don’t know what is the best solution.

The title of this post was Stepping Forward. So the big step forward last night was that I have working rules for stats, species (race), talents, cultures, skill costs and I have one fully working profession. It is now possible to go end to end and create a viable player character.

This weekend I will work on filling in more of the blanks, creating more cultures and completing more of the professions. Neither task is particularly exciting so I will mix that in with writing more of the core rules.

What I am building here is the RPG equivalent of one of these…

Everyone’s vision of a lego house, city or star port will be different but with one of these the only limit is imagination, and we are good at that.

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Navigator RPG and Psionics

I am nowhere near writing the chapter on psionics yet but they are implications to the skill system. Skills are definitely part of Character Generation and that is where I am.

White Star has about 40 ‘meditations’ which are direct one to one equivalents of OSR/OGL D&D spells. You have your Charm Person, Locate Object and so on.

Spacemaster has our familiar lists. I personally found the lists in Spacemaster to be rather bland, uninspiring and limited.

HARP SF has what it calls Fields which group similar psionic abilities together. Each has six to ten fully scalable abilities exactly like HARP Fantasy’s scalable spells.

So a HARP SF field is equivalent to a Spacemaster list but the psionic abilities are learned more like talents with an increasing DP cost as you go up the tiers.

Most Rolemaster folk who also know something about HARP have some admiration of the scalable spell system. You lose the Light I, Light II,… Light True progression that we see in most lists but you gain the ability to scale a basic Light spell in whatever way you need depending on your ability and the amount of power points you want to put into the spell.

The most Spacemaster thing to do is to copy the lists, change the names and some parameters to they are no longer the ICE spell lists, which I know ICE are very protective of. That gives maximum Spacemaster compatibility.

I could turn White Star’s meditations into Spacemaster style lists but that is more difficult as there are too few meditations to populate the lists.

As White Star has so much OGL D&D behind it I could go down the road of doing a direct one to one conversion of White Star meditations to HARP style scalable spells.

This would mean that psionics/spells would be learned by developing them as skills and we would need a power point development skill.

So that is the impact of psionics on skills.

Spacemaster broke the ‘anyone can do anything if you are prepared to spend the DP on it’ philosophy when it came to psions. I think they were right. You were either born psionic or you weren’t. It was not something that you decided to develop when you got to high level as the diminishing returns made buying your core skills pointless.

HARP has psionic potential as a talent that can be bought at creation but can also be bought with GM approval later on. Maybe you get some experimental brain surgery that enables your latent potential. I like that and I can go back and add the Psionic Potential talent to the available talents.

I am not entirely convinced this is actually a big deal. Spacemaster telepaths could do the stuff you expected telepaths to do. White Star mystics and Star Knights have exactly the same psychic abilities as to HARP characters.

It is more a question of presentation, they are all trying to model the same thing.

Does anyone have any strong opinions on this one way or another? I am leaning towards one to one conversion of the White Star discrete mediations using HARP style scalable spells but that is the least Spacemaster-ish solution.

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Gamist Elements in Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter

Recently I read Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, one of the most interesting Dungeons & Dragons novels I ever have absorbed. I call it a Dungeons & Dragons novel not because it contains oversized, fire breathing serpents, nor because it portrays sprawling, underground inhabitations of wealthy monsters—indeed, it contains neither of these—but because of its metaphysical system. Reviewer Judith Tarr identifies it in a tradition of “Fourth Age” Tolkienian fantasies—there are mere glimpses of Elves and Dwarves and rumors of Orcs within a mostly human-centric civilization—but, to me, the narrative is most interested in presenting a realistic martial milieu in which forces of magic originating from both the arcane and divine (or Essential and spiritual) sources are tactical components in conflict and warfare.

It’s this second that I want to explore with some depth. The first can be settled by pointing to other writers within the military fantasy tradition. Off the top of my head, two are Glen Cook and Steven Erikson, and only Erikson I have read with regularity. What’s striking to me with these novels—and this is true of Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, as well—is that sometimes a character “party” can be fairly diverse and be occupied with specific missions or quests, but mostly they are involved in military engagements, and usually their shared skills and identities are combat-oriented. In other words, there are few “balanced” parties composed of a Cleric, a Fighter, a Magic-user and a Thief (or their various sub-classes) but entire companies of these various classes individually pursuing their roles in the midst of a military campaign.

Or, in yet other words, these novels that are derived from the first game in the rpg hobby appear to cleave closer than D&D itself to its roots in war gaming. I expect that many a Rolemaster campaign does, as well, since, because of its skill system, parties might be composed wholly of one Profession but still allow for necessary variations within that Profession. The great resources of War Law and Castles & Ruins might provide for this kind of campaign, as well.

One effect that Sheepfarmer’s Daughter contains that I think would be worth exploring in an rpg campaign is the tight focus of a military recruit within the larger strategy of a military operation. I’m envisioning two games being explored at the table. The first would be along the lines of a traditional war game, players moving entire companies into engagements, and the second would comprise the true role playing component of individual endeavor, focusing on PCs within those various companies and the dramatic tales that arise from their actions. This, indeed, appears to be the structure of Steven Erikson’s and Ian Esslemont’s Malazan novels.

A component of Elizabeth Moon’s novel that is more traditional with how D&D has come to be played is its use of divine magic, specifically its use of holy symbols among the faithful. Moon’s perspective character Paksenarrion, Paks for short, appears to be being called to the office of Paladin. As such, she’s able to use holy symbols in a manner different from her fellow recruits. In fact, it may be that her fellow recruits can’t use holy symbols at all, but they wear them merely as dressings of their faiths and that they only believe that they might provide them with “luck.”

When Paks comes into possession of one, it does provide her with luck. She also uses it to Heal a character through laying on of hands. As some readers will remember, currently I’m a player in a 1e game, and I’ve been puzzled by the costs and uses of the two kinds of “holy symbols” in the equipment table. Should my Cleric purchase a wooden or metal one? What are the benefits—if any—of one over the other? My DM doesn’t seem to know or care. Obviously the wooden one is more liable to break, which, in his game, seems to be the only pragmatic consideration.

But the gamist in me wants more. Might the amount one spends on a symbol—the metal obviously is more expensive, and begemmed or artistically crafted would be more yet—confer a greater benefit, one awarded through this form of devotion and the personal “sacrifice” indicated in the expense? I also wonder if holy symbols might indeed confer a bit of “luck” for the casual worshipper, probably in the form of a bonus within certain situations, and have more powerful applications—or even be a requirement—in the hands of an established Cleric of the faith.

I notice that RM2 Character Law has no listing for a holy symbol in its equipment table. This and the removal of a Turn Undead ability for its clerical Professions is an interesting indication of what that game had become about in terms of the divine component in its role play. Maybe it should be reintroduced. Has anyone done so? How do Clerics and other divines function at your table?

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Modern Adventure Role Playing (MARP)

I am back home and wading through my emails. In amongst all the work stuff was an email about MARP. Craig, the author is having trouble posting to the blog, his comments seem to disappear into the bit bucket, so he could not post this himself.

I have copied it below in so you take a look.

This may be of interest to you:

In the ICE forum vaults, there’s a PDF by Aki Heikkinen called MARP – Modern Adventure Role Playing.

I don’t know why it’s called that because it’s far more Sci-Fi than Modern – it’s actually a conversion of Spacemaster: Privateers to HARP.


By Aki Heikkinen.

This is 59-page, 3MB PDF is the updated 2.5 version of Modern Adventure Role Playing (MARP) using Spacemaster Privateers setting. This PDF contains ten chapters and character sheet:

Professions: Eleven professions including 5 completely new professions: Academic, merchant, pilot, psychic and technician.

Race and Origins: Privateer universe’s races and cultures. Requires Privateers: Race and Culture book

Skills: Skill list and description of new skills. Three new categories: Science, Technical and Vehicle.

Talents and Starting Options: List of possible talents and starting options including dozens of new talents and starting options.

Cybernetics: Cybernetic rules and list of cybernetics. Requires Robotic Manual book.

Robotics: Android creation rules. Requires Robotic Manual book.

Psychic Power: Psychic rules. Requires Spacemaster Privateers core rulebook.

Combat Rules: Rules for dealing ranged attacks, new piercing and armor value rules and over dozen new combat actions. New critical tables are not included in this supplement but it is designed to be used with Spacemaster critical tables and means that all necessary books including critical tables are reguired.

Construction Rules: Quick overview of construction rules. Requires Vehicle Manual book.

Training Packages: List and description of possible training packages for privateers setting.



There are two things that stand out about this, apart from Craig’s technical problems. The first is that ICE seem perfectly happy to let a 3rd party reproduce content from the Spacemaster and Privateers setting and they must have approved the download. The second is that you would have thought that ICE would try to protect HARP SF rather than have people basically get it for free by utilising old books from a now unsupported game.

It is possible the download got through because it obviously states that all the official ICE books are required.

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Druids & Demons

I have been musing on this today after my comment on Hurin’s PowerPoint post this morning.

Imagine this setting.

The characters come from an agricultural society situated in a long fertile valley. It supports many villages and even a few market towns. The social structure is held together by Druids who provide all the spiritual support for the society.

Beyond the valley are hostile tribal nations lead by their own Druids.

Beyond those tribes the world is ruled by demons. This is a literal hell on earth setting.

In game mechanics terms the only spell casters are Druids on both the friendly and hostile sides of the coin. There is no magic except that which can be cast or forged by druids or demons.

Players may play druids only with the GMs consent because of their ruling class status.

Further details could be defined but this will suffice for now.

Would RMu work in this setting? This is a very restricted magic world. If you allowed a druid PC how would you stop them grabbing every available list?

With so little magical healing could anyone survive in hostile territory?

My first thoughts were in almost any set of rules this would be easy to run and play but under RMu it becomes exceptionally difficult.

Is this me just struggling with the RMu rules being spread over so many forum threads and the books being virtually obsolete, which means I cannot retain the information?

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Personal Update

I will be leaving hospital, barring last minute setbacks, next Monday.

When I get home I will basically be 30% fixed but I am not going to die and there is nothing they can do in hospital that I cannot do as an out patient from home. Just periodic chest scans and x-rays.

What is facing me on my desk at home is nearly a month of real world day job work.

Although I have greatly appreciated you all stepping in and keeping the blog alive I will be coming back up to speed slowly.

I can also feel the pressure of all the hype I have been putting out about my RMu adventure path in the fanzine. I would like to get the June issue out in June.

I also understand that the ice forums have been down while I have been out of it.

From next week. You will get more from me and more frequently but still no promises.

As proof of my progress this is that I look like now…

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Navigator Tech

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this article. After perusing the equipment offerings in both White Star and Spacemaster’s 1e Tech Law, I believe that Peter R probably intends to confine himself to the gear in White Star, though this might cause problems for backward-compatibility with Spacemaster products, an intention of purpose he has for his Navigator RPG.

As would be expected, White Star equipment is fundamental. Its standard gear isn’t more wondrous than modern tools in existence today. Its weapons range from the primitive ones available in most fantasy rpgs to modern “slugthrowers” to laser weapons. Armor in White Star, no matter how it is “skinned,” is just armor—even if it has reflective coating against laser weapons. Shields are either energy or physical, and they can’t be used together. Only with starships do we see some innovations predicated on genre. Here we find Shielding, Targeting Systems, Automated Weapons, Cloaking, Ion Guns, Proton Missiles, Reinforced Hulls and Tractor Beams.

The range of equipment in Spacemaster’s 1e Tech Law is much more diverse, but these raise design questions that aren’t easily resolved. Does armor lacking reflective covering provide any protection against laser beams? How about blasters, which I’m interpreting as a weapon that fires a wall of force? Against these energies, armor might minimize damage, but the character nonetheless should be subject to being knocked prone. Ion blasts should be particularly pernicious to robots and gadgetry, and plasma and matter/antimatter should be particularly lethal: plasma should eat right through physical armor (only energy shields might provide a defense) and perhaps continue to do so for rounds later, and matter/antimatter… Well.

White Star Advanced Equipment (in the White Star universe, this appears to be the equivalent of wondrous items or artifacts—not “for sale” and designed to be extremely rare) offers devices such as an Atomizer (Save or die, 10 uses), Plasma Projector (massive damage, 10 uses), and a Freeze Ray (a stunner?). These, perhaps, emulate some of the Spacemaster tech I have described above.

I guess these considerations merely show, per Peter’s intentions, that there is great potential in these spaces for third party developers. These designers should have opportunities to create very interesting and tactical mini games based on real or fictional “science” and technology.

If the range of science fiction personal gear in White Star is limited, its starship offerings are much more serviceable, and this chassis, as a foundation upon which to build, is preferable to Spacemaster 1e’s opaque method for designing starships, though much—particularly the construction of computer programs and abilities—could be ported in from there. I guess I likewise look forward to the mini games that third parties might develop for spaceship combat and exploration.

Well, those are my thoughts for the emerging Navigator RPG. I’m eager to see it take shape!

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“Casting” in Navigator RPG

I appreciate Peter R’s inclusion of the telepath or mentalist into Navigator RPG. As I have said before, I’m amused by the preponderance of this archetype in science fiction, that training, mutating or evolving to use the power of brain waves is somehow more believable than outright “magic.” And magic it is, demonstrated as so by Spacemaster adopting its Rolemaster magic system in toto for its emulation of psychic abilities.

In preparation for this article, I had thought I was going to propose an utterly different system for mentalist abilities. For awhile I had been dissatisfied with the resource-based method of magic in RM, and I believed I would be additionally so, when it came to mentalism, while proposing a system in Navigator. I had thought that using a straight skill mechanic —individual lists developed independently, as is BriH’s method or in Against the Darkmaster (VsD)—while completely disregarding Power Points would be my preference.

My thinking was that a telepath—in contradistinction, perhaps, to a magic caster who was born special or had access to some numinous gift—simply had learned to use one’s mind to an extraordinary degree. In other words, whereas you and I think, perhaps, all day long with comparative ease, a futuristic mentalist simply will turn these thoughts outward to interact with other minds. How successful they will be at this interaction, I had been thinking, should be dependent on a Skill roll, one most often opposed by a Skill roll arising likewise from the target mind.

I also liked the idea of a telepath becoming strained or fatigued, however, and that’s when I began to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps the mentalist should expend hit points for its abilities. Or maybe it made more sense to burn the actual stat most closely associated with its powers. But then I thought that this was too punishing, that a telepath should be able to do some things passively or with ease, and hence Power Points were reintroduced.

What this line of reasoning did for me, however, was to recognize that the subsystem within which casters operate might be—and perhaps should be—applied to other classes. I doubt that this idea is original, but here it is: every profession should enjoy a secondary resource, determined by the table that enumerates Power Points, based on their archetypes’ primary attributes. For casters, this resource should power their spells, of course, but additional points might be spent to add bonuses to the roll or its effects (VsD allows additional spends for more powerful applications). This is what I propose for other classes: these might spend points for, say, +10 per point, while attempting actions in conformance with the professions’ primary abilities. I would allow these bonuses to stack up to a cap determined by a sum of three main stats keyed to mind, body and soul.

I developed a system like this for my d100 Viking game, heavily inspired by the game Yggdrasill, which uses a PC resource called “Furor” for many similar results.

Two considerations remain.

The first is this: should casters (and other classes) be allowed to burn hp or temporary stat values? I really like the idea of burning mind power for the telepath, an action that, within great straits, could leave the character brain dead or, at the very least, temporarily impeded in cognition, which could reduce Power Points per day, while the mentalist recovers.

The other question is just how many kinds of casters should be in Navigator. It’s foregone that a type of Essence caster is going to be represented in the form of a Star Knight. But what about Channeling? Is the implied metaphysics of the genre that nothing that can function as a deity—be it outside or inside SpaceTime—can exist? I expect that this question shall be answered at individual gaming tables and that Peter R expects resources for this kind of gameplay to be offered by third parties. On my end, however, I’m already adopting the Cleric WhiteBox class—renamed a “Shepherd”—into any future White Star/Spacemaster/Navigator game I might run.

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Power Points: How Much Is Too Much?

We’ve been having an interesting discussion on the ICE forums about Power Points. Different editions of Rolemaster have treated them rather differently:

–In RM2, a typical level 1 Spellcaster might start the game with 2 or 3, and they would regenerate slowly. (I’ve been looking to try to find exactly how slowly in the Rules As Written, but it seems buried somewhere inaccessible. Since hit points recovered only 1 per hour if resting, or one per three hours if moving, we assumed spell points came back at the same rate. But if anyone can provide me with a chapter and verse on that, I would appreciate it!).

–In RMSS, Powerpoint Development was a skill, which meant characters could start the game with an order of magnitude (10x) more powerpoints. And while the regeneration rate was the same as RM2’s while you were not resting (1 every 3 hours), you also regenerated them faster when resting, and much faster when sleeping, such that 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep regenerated all your PP.

The discussion is relevant because the limits on one’s power point pool and the regeneration of power points were some of the primary limits on spellcasters, preventing them from being overpowered in comparison to arms users at low levels. With RMU rethinking some of these limits, it is helpful to get input from players as to what an appropriate amount of spell power should be.

So what do you think? It seems like RMSS users are used to a large pp pool and fast regeneration, while RM2 users tend to be more used to a small pool and slow regeneration. Where do you fit on the spectrum? How many pp should a first level caster have, and how quickly should she get them back?

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