Rolemaster Kids- Magic

I remember, it was maybe two years ago, there was a very active discussion on the forums about marketing RMU and there was a general consensus that there should be a Lite version of RMU to encourage people to give it a go. The point where people diverged was more on how do you make a light version of Spell Law? How many spell casting professions, how many lists and two what level?

Rolemaster Kids would face the same issues. I am convinced that just two realms are needed and one profession for each. The magician and (lay) healer are so different in every aspect that they make for a real nice choice for a potential player. So that takes care of the how many professions and which questions.

So how many lists and to what level?

I am thinking ten and ten. Ten lists to tenth level for each profession. Just like RMU I will fill every slot.

I have a really strong urge to not use the spells in Spell Law though. I want to create these ten lists myself to encapsulate what the realm and profession does well. I also think new and more interesting spell names could add a lot of colour and imagery to the game. It is intended for a younger audience after all. Light I, Light II and Light III are hardly inspiring.

Looking at the open and closed Essence and Mentalism lists there is a huge amount of cross over with both realms being able to produce the same effects. Essence is of course bigger, stronger, longer, faster than Mentalism but that is only in comparison to each other.

In a similar way to how the RM2 Warrior Mage combined all the bolt and ball spells from all the magician base lists into one I think something similar could be done with the base lists for the lay healer. Just so of the ten lists available they do not have to buy five healing list, I think we can safely skip prosthetics. I would like to include telekinesis, delving, detections and scrying (sense mastery) type magics into the available lists for mentalism

As long as the magician can fly, cast fireball, create illusions, go invisible and put guards to sleep that would satisfy most peoples basic magician needs. I think unbarring ways is cool and dispelling magic should be part of a magicians remit. I think one can lost Earth Law, Water Law and Ice Law and it doesn’t leave a massive hole in the magicians functionality.

Making the magic system work falls into two mechanism. Directed spells would be exactly like the combat cards I mentioned in the first post. Base attack rolls would be more akin to the skills cards I think with attack roll, success/failure (including spell failure effects!) and resistance rolls all on one card.

I know that is a pretty sketchy outline but have I missed any importance considerations?

Rolemaster Kids – Skill Points?

I am building some real enthusiasm for this idea now. I think it is certainly achievable with a target age down towards the 10yrs old mark or even lower. Hero Kids goes down as far as 4yrs old and I just don’t think that is viable for any sort of Rolemaster-esque game. Just think of the sorts of sums we do adding open ended rolls, adding OBs, adding and subtracting positional modifiers, adding a negative DB and applying percentage based penalties from criticals or faster actions. That is beyond any reasonable expectation for someone below the age of 10 unless they were unusually gifted.

It is also almost impossible to remove those things as to not give a bonus for sneaking up behind your target before attacking is illogical as is expecting someone with a broken arm to just as good at fighting.

So to knock this idea about a bit more if the starting point for skill costs tends to be 2/6 and a 50 DPs seems to be the starting point then we can half both figures to make the numbers smaller and more friendly 25 skillpoints and one rank in a skill costs 1 skill point , every additional rank after the first each level costs 3 skill points. The 1/3 progression will vary from profession to profession but I am only planning on have 4 professions Fighter, Thief, Magician and (Lay) Healer. A fighters weapons skills would most likely cost 1/2 skill points (that is one stroke two not a half)  whereas a Healers would be 4 points and the magician’s 5 per ranks.

I don’t think cultures are overly complicated and can just give a range of skills to make first level characters rounded.

The skills they would be buying would be just a core of skills without all the specialisations. This will keep the number of skills down and make real Rolemaster a much richer experience when people move on.

Skill resolution could be simplified down to partial success at (try again next round at +20) at 76 or more; success at 101 or more; absolute success at 176 or more.

I would make skills ‘rolls’ a card based system with the roll printing on the card as long with a simplified skill resolution table. Different types of cards would be available for different types of skills so the the results could be themed to provide added colour. Such as: “Partial Success: You keep talking and your audience is still listening. Try again next round at +20” for a social or influence type skill.

Intothatdarkness brought up the issue of lost or missing cards and that is easily avoided by making the cards all free PDFs that can be printed at home either on stock card or by using a glue stick to paste them on to standard playing cards.

I think that that would be simple enough to be understood by a ten year old but also Rolemaster enough for there to be a natural progression.




This is a topic I have touched on once or twice in the past but it must be a year or more since last time. It was also something that Intothatdarkness mentioned in a comment yesterday.

I do not use the Encumbrance rules as written. Initially I just junked them and left it at that. Then when I was reading the players character sheets in preparation for a gaming weekend I realised that a couple of the characters would barely be able to walk and the both the warrior mage and the sorcerer probably could not cast a single spell with the amount of metal they were hauling around.

I needed a way of reining it in but without slapping the players with the full encumbrance rules out of nowhere.

I did this in three stages. Firstly I got the players to note the location of each piece of equipment on their equipment lists. When they got to the third sword they started to see the problem. Suddenly their horses were carrying a lot of spare equipment.

Secondly, I tallied up the amount of metal I thought the spell casters were carrying and just started to mention that they had a penalty on their BAR rolls. I did it casually once or twice as if I had always applied this.

What had actually prompted this in the first place as a habit one of my players has. He detests the book keeping element of RPGs and seeing as he is Dyslexic I completely understand his not wanting to write much. When it comes to the party loot his aversion to bookkeeping had him suggest that the party just keep a common list of what the party had found rather than constantly updating their character sheets with things that they were going to sell or dump as soon as they had had time to appraise them. The other players all thought this was a good idea so I had no objections at that time.

Two or three sessions on I had a thief NPC who wanted to steal a particular item from the party. This item was on the common treasure list as no one had claimed it as their own. Not all the party were together when the item was stolen so I just randomly rolled which character had the item and my roll said it was with the characters that were being targeted. Well the theft went unnoticed at the time and the item taken. Immediately afterwards when they were all together again and they got to someone who could appraise the item they couldn’t find it. I described that they found a pouch that had been obviously cut open on a seam and the item was gone. At that point the players all protested and claimed that the item was always safely with the character who had remained behind and could not have been stolen.

I just said that if it was with a specific person then they should have it on their equipment list.

That made me question the common loot list and a glance told me that there was a further 200lbs of kit that was unaccounted for on that sheet. I made a simple sheet up that was divided into sections for each character and that now serves as the common loot list. It saves them constantly having to change their personal equipment lists. Whenever there is a short break in play I look at the loot list if it has changed and jot down a quick guestimate of the weight of each persons share.

Now this hodge podge solution works for us but I freely admit it is not ideal and would never suggest it as an alternative for other GMs. My group only gets together a couple of times a year and as such there is a lot of pressure to spend as little time as possible on character maintenance and book keeping as possible.

The only encumbrance rules I apply are those from table 10.4 Static Actions and the encumbrance penalties there. I don’t do all the body weight calculations. That of course is just what works for my game and group.

So does encumbrance play a big part in your games?

Just a thought…Diceless and bookless RM?

This was prompted by an idea that edgcltd put out there this week. He mentioned Hero Kids and the success it has achieved in bringing RPGs to a very young audience. Its very existence is great for our hobby. I honestly do not think you can make a viable Rolemaster for the 4yr to 10yr old market…”Sweep lays foe out and heel strike
to foe’s sternum collapses the ribcage. Foe is helpless and dies in 4 rnds.”…is the sort of thing that makes Rolemaster great and I just cannot translate that into fluent 4yr old.

But how about 12yr old?

I was fettling about with a spreadsheet last night and came up with something that looks like a playing card. In the top left is an open ended dice roll. You can add your OB to that and deduct the opponents DB. below that is a 5×3 table with the attack roll down one edge and three armour types across the top. They are unarmoured, soft leather/light mail and rigid leather/heavy mail and plate. The body of the 5×3 table has the damage and critical result for that weapon against that armour for that roll. A row would look something like this.

Slice to foes chest. +12 hits and bleeding 2 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round.-10% to all actions Cut to foes chest. +9 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round. Cut to foes chest. +8 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Must Parry 1 round.

There would be a pack of cards for each weapon, the result above is from a Dagger card on a total roll of 100, so it retains the unique weapons. The cards retain the A-E criticals and the location specifics. Some critical include armour breakages, fatal wounds and witty comment that we all know and love.

It gains armour by the piece as you can see each card is tied to a location so if you opponent has no leg armour then you apply the No armour column. If you strike him on the head and he has a full helm then you apply the heavy armour column.

The cards are generated by spreadsheet and can build in all the features of the Arm Law specifications such as slash criticals against lighter armours and crushes against heavy mail.

Using the same methodology I can make static actions and moving manoeuvre cards with a themed dice roll plus a simplified Absolute Failure to Absolute Success. One pack of cards for influence skills, one for perception and tracking, another for picking locks and disarming traps.

Initially I thought you would need too many packs of cards but then it would be no more complicated than the board game Talisman and my group love that game.

I could imagine each player would buy their own sets of cards. If their fighter uses a broadsword then you would want the broadsword pack, it they used a heavy crossbow then you would want the crossbow pack. Later on there may even be a market for additional packs to give different and new criticals.

Taking onboard other comments from the last couple of weeks then I would write a completely open source/ OGL simplified character generation set of rules.

What I am looking at is a really simple feeder game to try and attract a younger audience into Rolemaster. The mechanisms will be familiar the skill system will work the same way, combat will work the same way but the natural progression will be from cards to the ICE rulebooks.

I would like to keep the entire rules down to about 40 pages or less as Hero Kids which is the most successful of model has a 39 page rulebook including sample characters, stand up figures and first adventure. I am aiming at a slightly higher age range but we wouldn’t want to be accused of being rules heavy would we?

So the question is, if you could be 12 again and there was a version of Rolemaster just for you what would it be like? What would any feeder version NEED to have?



Blog Intro Death and Dismemberment

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Dyson’s Dodecahedron as a great source of maps. Today I thought I would mention Lloyd Neill’s occasional Death and Dismemberment blog (

Neill is an OSR/D&D and Rolemaster enthusiast and house rule fan which is kind of a prerequisite for Rolemaster GMs I guess.

This is relevant particularly given this weeks discussion on OSR. Last year there were some interesting discussions on House Rules. I am not a fan of OSR roleplay as it, in my opinion, just a thief tax but each to their own.

Misc Whiskey Thoughts & Challenging RPG paradigms.

  1. First, we are really close to the end of the month and we’ve almost had 1 blog per day! Thanks for everyone’s efforts.
  2. This is going to sound close to criticism…but it isn’t. Obviously all of us that participate here as either bloggers or commentators have specific viewpoints and solutions and we tend to gravitate towards our own rule models when challenged or when rules are discussed. I try very hard to think outside the box, question my own pre-conceptions and challenge established tropes–my own personal Socratic Method. Many times when I blog I’m not taking a partisan stance–I’m trying to create a dialogue to test our views and solutions. To be honest, I can and do generate new Professions all the time. What I have found is that the only real distinction is in “Base” spell lists–otherwise skill costs are washed out by level 10. Nonetheless it is interesting to create and model cultural or pop-cultural profession models with class distinct skill costs. But doing that, I am led back to a more flexible system of “free market” approach that utilizes a cost/benefit system that actually reinforces the very tropes and archetypes that people enjoy.
  3. RR’s, Saving Throws & Innate Stat abilities. So what came first? Spells or spell defense? Does that seem a stupid question? Spell Law was conceived with the concept of Magical Saving Throw already accepted–a PC can “resist” magical influence. As we discussed in an earlier blog, RM took a step forward in at least acknowledging the difference between a physical manifestation of magic and meta-physical one. WTF does that mean? I’ve been working on this…and came up with a few frameworks. Now, I think Dan and his work with RMU Spell Law has improved upon classifying spells by “Force”, “Elemental”, “Informational” etc… Even in it’s earliest editions, Rolemaster had already identified various spell manifestations: physical bolts should be treated as a missile attack, elemental ball attacks were similar but used the targets DB, and most other spells called for “Resistance Rolls”. Not bad–but can we do better? Maybe the solution isn’t conveniently classifying spells by certain types to define avoidance/resistance ramifications but through the spell itself. That might mean that spells are treated more individually like original DnD than the commoditized Rolemaster system. I’m doing major work on BASiL combining it with various stat driven mitigation rules. For example “Levitation” is found on my version of WIND LAW, GRAVITY LAW and (not yet published Mentalism spells). So Levitation/Wind Law uses a cushion of air which can be countered by “Still Wind” while Leviation/Gravity Law would not be affected by “Still Wind”. Should an unwilling target be allowed to “resist” against either one one of these? Can we resist an air cushion or a manipulation of gravity!?
  4. BTW: Matt is over in Europe for a while longer. Peter, I’m heading to Iceland in June to reinforce my love of the Iron Wind!
  5. Only 3 people for our 50 adventures in 50 days? Sad.

Alright…time for bed but I have more to say about all this (in a more comprehensive manner!)

Random Musings: OSR, Retro-Clones, Open Source Rolemaster?

I want to start by quoting two sources that really struck home:

“I still love RM but the customer base is just too small to make a living from unless you are Terry.”

“Going hand and hand with that is the fact that for better or for worse the OSR is a thing. For the past decade and a half there been a group of hobbyists actively publishing, promoting, and playing classic editions of Dungeons and Dragon and similar RPGs. This is result of everybody taking advantage of the freedom granted by the open content found in the d20 SRD to expand the quantity and variety of material that supports classic D&D.” SOURCE.

I don’t know if Nicholas or Terry read this blog regularly, but I consider myself first and foremost an RM and SW supporter. At my age, I don’t have time or energy for other systems. But I’m feeling frustrated—less for me than the opportunities I.C.E. might be missing by not opening up their IP. There is a renaissance occurring in old school game rules and RM is not riding that wave. I want to publish RM material and I want to publish SW material no matter the size of the market—I’m much less concerned about monetizing my work or earning a living, but being paid or compensated IS affirmative feedback on your efforts.

Ironically, it seems that the bulk of Rolemaster system products are the result of collating house rules in various Companions or relying on third party authors rather than any centralized approached to core product development. In other words, Rolemaster has always been a polished form of crowdsourced content. Maybe RMU pulls these previous efforts back into a cohesive thread, but…will there be corresponding game and support material and modules to carry the new rule set? If not, that’s a big problem in today’s gaming environment.

Here at RolemasterBlog we are going to put out 50 small adventure/encounter/NPC/layout “squirts” in 50 days. Would these be more appealing, sell more, or pull more attention if they could be labelled as supporting “Rolemaster”? Terry and SW are slightly different—previous attempts at third party authors resulted in some good modules but not necessarily Shadow World modules. Terry wants to control content and protect his IP. I get that.

But just imagine the alternative. I apologize for sounding a bit morbid, but none of us are getting younger. Check out the ages for the active members of RM Forums. Most of us are late 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. Where is Rolemaster in 10 years if the fan base continues to slowly decline and new product output continues at the same current level. It’s called a death spiral–see the chart at the top. This is the Business/Industry Lifecycle curve: I use it extensively in my work as a mental model for analyzing businesses.  Of note is the inflection point that occurs after business/industry maturity. You either reinvent, reinvest or re-imagine or you become irrelevant or non-competitive. Certainly the whole RPG industry is tackling this with varying degrees of success.  I believe that that the answer is not in traditional strategies: marketing, research or new product development. It’s embracing the free flow of information, open sourcing, crowd funding new content, organic development and creative development seeding.

How can you develop new young writing and creative talent without a growing or stable fan base? In my mind, open sourcing Rolemaster, leveraging online creative communities and allowing new media channels to incubate and screen quality content is the only mid to long term strategy for Rolemaster to prosper.

Can Professionless provide all the detail of RM2?

I know that many people love the minute detail that the full spectrum of RM2 professions provided. The professions were basically a package of individual skill and base lists.

Keeping the base lists within professionless and level-less RM is easy.

The individual skill costs are completely compatible with level-less but I am open to ideas about how to create that flexibility with professionless gaming.

BriH has pitched the idea of getting rid of skill costs all together so that every skill costs 5DP (I could be wrong about who came up with that idea but that is not the point). I was thinking of playing with the idea of going to the other way.

As you can see the standard No Profession  character doesn’t have any real strengths.

How about allowing the player to juggle a few points around? So let’s give each player 10 points they can move about to make some skills cheaper and others more expensive. If no skill could cost less than less that 1 point for the first rank and 2 points for the second and no skill can cost no more than 3/6. This stops players from ‘dumping’ points into a skill they have no intention of every buying.

I would love to have peoples opinions on this. If you like all the old professions would the option of tweaking the skill costs at level one appeal?

To make it fair when you are thinking about this you should bear in mind that all characters get 50DPs. You do not have to buy Body Development (that is free), there is only one armour skill that costs 2* and in total there are only about 45 skills not the 200 from all the companions. You need that to know just how far 10 points would go in tweaking those costs.

Do you think that will make PCs more varied and do you think it would help you build the character you would want to play? After all that is the whole point of having a detailed character creation process in the first place.

First Level Shouldn’t Suck!

If we’re soapboxing, I’ll jump  on one of mine: First Level shouldn’t suck! The whole premise behind first level should be giving a player a character who’s gone through her formative years and experiences and is ready to set out on her own, not some abstraction of early adolescence who can’t survive being stung by a bee, let alone a minor encounter with a wild dog. The old joke about D&D magic users having to hide behind fighters until they were about fifth level has a sad basis in fact, and Rolemaster (in my opinion) seems intent on turning first level into a collection of those magic users. Continue reading “First Level Shouldn’t Suck!”

Random Musings: Dealing with Undead in Rolemaster.

Like a lot Rolemaster’s content, much of the mechanics around Undead are design artifacts from D&D; more specifically the issues of “Turning” and “Draining”.

Turning. It’s generally accepted in RPG’s that Clerics have the holy ability to “Turn” undead: basically, repel or even destroy them based on the level of the cleric. In D&D this is a class ability and in Rolemaster was converted to a Base spell list which is essentially the same thing, an implied core ability of the Cleric/Priest class.

There is a lot of talk on Turning in various D&D blogs—here is a good summary and discussion. Like many accepted fantasy tropes, once you step back from Turning as a core ability of the priest it’s pretty obvious that this power should be granted to specific types of priests—ones who follow or worship the god of life or death. In other words, an aspected list. Why should a Priest of the God of Fire have the ability to affect Undead? In fact, I moved Turning ability into a separate list Repulsions—basically a closed list.

I feel there are a lot of problems with the original Rolemaster repulsion spells—they try to maintain some of the elements of the D&D system by organizing undead by Class and then having spells affect a certain # of Class types. It’s just complicated for no reason. Why not treat Repulsions like a sleep spell? Any targets within the AoE must make an RR with the effects (cower, flee, destroyed) be based on the Fail? Higher level Undead will either resist or not fail by much while lower level Undead could easily be destroyed. You get the same solution without the complications of counting up the # of Classes present. Instead the spell is driven by the attack level and AoE.

Draining. The original RM had Undead causing Co drains. Later Companions introduced Life Levels with a corresponding spell list to regain lost life levels. D&D has LEVEL DRAIN—that was crazy. Why even try “Life Levels”? A while back Peter wrote a blog post touching upon stat drains as an effective Undead effect. I like the oringal simplicity of stat drain and a corresponding mechanism to regain the lost temp stat through time/rest or a restorative spell.

Stat drain is a great universal effect that could be applied to a number of agents besides Undead:

  1. The Unlife. The Unlife could drain a non-physical stats like Self-Discipline or Presence.
  2. Different types of Demons could drain different stats.
  3. Unholy Objects. Cursed or “evil’ weapons could leach stats point when used in general or when a specific power is used.
  4. New spells could allow a caster to drain and use a targets stat points for their own use. (like in Runelords).

The Undead don’t have to be complicated or identical to D&D–simple mechanisms and solutions work best within the flexibility of the Rolemaster system.