Rolemaster Blog Crowdsource Challenge: 50 RM adventures in 50 weeks.

So, let me start with this–I’m not a believer in decision by committee, so when I say “crowdsource” what I really mean is a tight group of competent people with differing skill sets.

There was an attempt at crowdsourcing an adventure module on the Forums. I have no idea how far it got, but apparently it’s stalled?

I’m thinking something different–a quick and dirty production of easy to adopt adventures, scenarios, layouts or campaign seeds via the RolemasterBlog.com. After Peter’s recent blog post, “An Explosive Situation”, it’s clear to me at least that a small, flexible group of experienced GM’s/players could publish frequent and interesting material–lower in scope than a sanctioned or published product. Peters blog and few comments generated a small conflict drop in adventure. Random encounter tables can generate a whole slew of random adventure hooks…etc.

Yes, there is already many small “one-off” products online. I’m suggesting a Rolemasterblog.com specific product line using the talents already associated with, connected to, or participating in the community. We would need a few content writers, a map/battle map/layout person and a pagemaker/publisher type. This would be a d100 system or agnostic product.

Wow, this seems like a small game company startup. Not really. This is a crazy challenge of 50 adventure vignettes in 50 weeks. Is this possible? I think so just based on the word count of RM Forum participants.. Let’s start in September 17 to September 18.

Rules or Setting?

My somewhat recent post about time in campaigns got me thinking about another of my favorite topics (aside from modern gaming): the relationship of a rules system to its setting. In my view, the best rules systems are always strongly tied to a specific setting. This isn’t so much about stats or combat mechanics, but rather classes/professions, races, and cultures.

Continue reading “Rules or Setting?”

Shadow World: Master Encounter Table

One of the earlier files I posted on the Shadow World thread was a master encounter table. I put a lot of work into it, included every creature, plant, herb, profession, race or group found in SW Canon products.  These encounter categories include: weather, accidents, essence, flora, herbs, creatures, creature (unusual), humanoids, groups, sub groups, vehicles, professions, objects, structures, events, special.

It starts with an encounter category table divided into simplified environmental zones with sub tables depending on the result. It also has two aux charts for distance to encounter and attitude/behavior of encounter if applicable. With just these tables it is easy to randomly generate SW encounters on the fly, generate a quick NPC group or other random event or encounter.

But oddly, I got fewer messages or feedback on the encounter chart than I did with many of the other uploads. I’ve included it below in Excel format so it’s easy to change, adapt or expand as needed.

SW Encounter Charts

Shadow World: Gods, Religions and Spells

Over on the Shadow World thread at FM Forums I posted up dozens of files on Diety specific spell lists and new SW religions plus an “Invocation” chart for any player that wants to call to their God for help. I’ve bundled all of that into 2 files below and you can read my blog on SW Religions HERE.

SW Religion pt 1

SW Religion pt2

Project BASiL: Channeling & Essence

I’m starting the process of consolidating all of my uploaded files on the RM Forums over here to the Rolemasterblog.com. I’ve uploaded over 200 docs scattered throughout the Rolemaster and Shadow World threads, but to see them or download them requires a user account.

These are just the lists and not the associated notes that accompany each. For info on our Channeling mechanics, I blogged about it HERE and for Essence mechanics HERE.

Channeling pt 1

Channeling pt 2

and an extra Channeling List “Channeling”

Channeling

Essence pt1

Essence pt2

Essence pt3

And Cantrips we use is our SW campaign.

Cantrips

 

 

An explosive situation…

Imagine this set up.

It is a small walled town or more accurately a settlement. To the east of the market square is the manor house, to north at ground level are a few shops to cater for trade caravans and above them a hostel or flop house for itinerants. The west has the gate house and the south facing on to the market place is a taverna with seats spilling out into the square.

Our characters should ideally be sat at the taverna, outside. Maybe they are waiting to meet a patron or even waiting to get paid? We will come back to the characters later.

The sun is just coming up over the town walls and it is going to be a fine day.

Let us take a look behind the closed doors and behind the shutters.

In the manor house we find a home is shock and disarray. During the night the master of the house has been assassinated and the only living heir is missing. Guards were killed at their posts and often without any sign of struggle. The women folk are in shock and the men are split between the hawks who want to turn the town upside down to find and kill the assassins and the doves who are only concerned with the safe return of the missing heir. A runner was sent to the gate house before dawn to tell them there were assassins in the town and to not let anyone in or out.

Across the square the gatehouse is filled with pent up energy. The gate will not open today. Eyes are scanning the horizon outside the town looking for any trace that armed men and a hostage may have escaped during the night while others scan the town looking for suspicious foreigners.

At the flop house on the top floor we find a group of eastern looking assassins. Maybe they are of some ancient holy order dedicated to refining death to an art maybe they are masters of infiltration.  right now they have look outs watching the market place looking for the first signs that their work has been discovered and of the heir who is still to die. Three storeys below them one of the shops is that of a weaponsmith and pawnbroker. The owner was wakened not too long ago by the missing heir who was looking for a safe place to hide. The last thing his dying father had said was run and protect yourself, you must survive. Our young heir has no experience of weapons, more adept with a pen than with a sword. As it is easy to use the young heir is shown how to load a heavy crossbow. The weapon is heavy and awkward for the young man and whoops! A loosed bolt shatters a pane of glass in the shop front and flies across the empty square towards the taverna.

So our characters are sitting their minding their own business, just waiting to get paid when the crack of breaking glass grabs their attention. Does the bolt hit anyone? Who knows?

So what happens next? The party draw weapons and head across the square? Do the assassins see the heavily armed players charging their hiding place? I have the assassins suddenly rappelling down to the square on silken ropes, a blur of scimitars and curved daggers.

What do the guards do when they are suddenly faced with a market square filled and erupting battle? Out into it all rushes an embarrassed and somewhat ashamed young heir who can only stammer “I am so terribly sorry, it was an accident…” knowing he may have hurt someone with his errant crossbow bolt.

All of this attracts the attention of those in the manor and the first sight of the young heir is enough to bring the remaining household guards from the manor charging out to save the son.

So how do your players react to this? Obviously the entire powder keg situation here is contrived and the trigger is applied by you the GM.

Even if the party does not charge into the attack the second the young heir steps out into the square to apologise the assassins are going to leap into the attack.

So can the party work out who are the good guys, who are the bad guys and who is completely innocent? Can they resist letting off fireballs in a now rather crowded market square?

Will the heir survive?

There is no real point to this post other than that I was reminded this week that the original reason for starting this blog was to provide playable material so there you go, a little town encounter for you.

I’m curious. Magic item ubiquity in your Rolemaster or Shadow World game.

 

I’ve followed several forum threads on the “commonness” of magic and magic items and thought I would ask people what they would consider as an average magic item kit for various professions at 5th lvl.

In general, in your game, what would the following have for magic or bonus items (but be specific on item and bonus, power or ability):

5th lvl Fighter

5th lvl Magician

I’m on the rarity end of the spectrum, plus I use a lot of single use magic items and roll for breakage on items. If I were starting players at 5th lvl I would do something like this:

Fighter. +10 non magic superior armor. +15 weapon. 2-5 single charge items (a mixture of protection or healing). maybe a Daily II item (offensive spell) if the group is small or it needs some skill diversity.

Magician: x2 PP multiplier. 2-4 Daily I-IV items (around 5th level spells for protection and attack). 2 Charged Items. 50 pp’s in storage (essence crystal)

My spell users have far fewer spells than traditional RM, so I add basic capabilities through daily items and charges. I generally provide a good level of PP’s, but I use unpredictable Essaence effects  (in our encounter tables) so casters face gain/loss of PP’s or increase in casting failure.

Drinking rant. RM Gaming Content: What’s the deal?

There is a paradoxical story about the chicken and the egg. Oh, you’ve heard it? Despite your familiarity with that age old story, gather round, young ones about content, IP and game rules.

First, let’s be clear: Terry Amthor is a creative genius and perhaps one of the most under appreciated forefathers of “golden/silver age” authors. I think part of that is due to his modest nature–did you know he wrote/designed other early rpg products under other names? Did you know he authored the sole AD&D adventure module “Thief Challenge? Read blogs. Peruse Grognardia for OSR recollections. The Golden Age of ME products–they were amazing!!! I know, I collected/bought out failing game store inventory (shrinkwrapped!!!) for their inventory at $.10 on the dollar and resold or 50x that once Jackson LOTR was announced. (email me for that story!!)

Ok, this is a drinking rant! Allow me to confuse this blog further and vaguely connect to my opening paragraph. What comes first; rules or settings/adventures? Are they simultaneous?  Why do I have the “Longstreet” SW novel as my top graphic? No idea. None whatsoever-this is a drunken rant.

I have a boatload of SW adventure content–all of it falls within the various RM Forum uploads and my own non-canon material..but…I am ever cognizant of SW flavor, theme and timeline, Everything I write is based on whether it fits SW or Terry will approve. Of course I’m not the writer or creator that Terry is, but I want to add to the milieu.  So my choices now are to publish setting agnostic material here or wait for Terry to catch up to accepted, submitted material.

While yes I crave Terry’s imprimatur, I am also closing in on 50 years old and would like 4-10 products published within the next 10. Should I create a agnostic product using my own version of skill focused, no-profession ruleset?

In the end, I’m and RM loyalist, a SW supplicant, but a frustrated author. I’ve posted over 200 file uploads in the last year + on the RM forums. The bulk of them are Spell Law files but a significant number are SW files. I have a 300 page+ modified SW Master Atlas, a 100 page plus MA creatures, a 97 page module on Ulya Shek for levels 5-25, 77 pages on Nontataku, 7 pages of outline on the Raven Queen and Chycalla War Machines and now a solid outline on the Pillar City! I’m working on my final SWARM doc (Shadow World Alteranate RoleMaster), and am close to uploading an expanded version of the Pales including environmental conditions, game play and expanded creature encounters.

I’m happy to upload any or all of this free of charge. I’m not looking for a payday–I’m guessing RPG publishing isn’t lucrative in any event. My formatting and layouts are poor (not for gameplay use for certainly for publishing). I’m thinking of putting this all up on the Forums or here on the RMBlog. OTOH, even getting one SW product published with the official “stamp of approval” is worth it. Thoughts?

And to finish the drinking rant, tonight’s was provided by Corsair Distillery (an apropos MERP /RM reference)

I will now go read a story from my favorite anthology: Dragon Tales.

Using technology. Texting during gameplay.

A post over at Gnomestew got me thinking more about this issue. It’s pretty hard now not to have players looking at their phones during gameplay. Maybe they are bored or the story isn’t focused on their character; maybe they are just conditioned to continually check their devices. For younger players, multi-tasking with a smart phone is almost reflexive, but it can be distracting to gameplay, slow things down or work against the immersive experience of gaming.

We’ve always used post it notes during play: players send me spells they are casting, players talk to each other without the group knowing, I send players privileged info etc. Would text messaging facilitate these communications or does it take players out of the game? I’m thinking of trying it but feel that once I let that genie out of the bottle I won’t be able to put it back.

Interested in others thoughts and/or experiences with this.

RM Forum Revisited: The Argument Against Character Classes in Rolemaster. PT 1.

Reaching into the archives! One of my first forum posts in the RM forums was way back in 2011. I posted an initial post and then several responses and subsequently have touched upon this in several RolemasterBlog.com posts. Looking back, I see my forum post suffered from push back on profession/class belief and an unrealistic acceptance of my rule proposals! Either way, I think this in a topic worth exploring and I’ve posted a slightly revised version below.

Since its introduction, Rolemaster’s appeal was as a versatile system add-on integrated into traditional  Dungeons & Dragons.  In RM there are supposedly no class limitations: a fighter could learn spells, and a magic user could wield a sword.  At the time (c. 1982) this was a revolutionary feature in fantasy role-playing compared to the strict restrictions imposed in DnD and other gaming systems.  The wide adoption of a class based systems was driven by fantasy literature but ultimately led to a creative dead end for the following reasons:

1.   Character classes reinforce fantasy tropes.  By continuing to use class titles, RM has ultimately embraced a model it was attempting to challenge.  Over time, it made it harder to differentiate RM from other established gaming systems as they in turn have adopted some of RM’s ideas.
2.   Character classes tend to reinforce the need for the balanced party.  While the adventure group is a foundation of traditional fantasy role-playing, it may also pigeon holes players into class defined roles. Furthermore the game balance then breaks down when there are less than 4 players or there is an odd mixture of player classes in the group.
3.   Character classes should be driven by the setting, not the other way around.  RPG classes have become solid memes: each profession carrying fixed conceptions of its abilities, behavior, appearance or power.  The term wizard or magician may conjure up personal fantasy motifs that can overwhelm a GMs unique campaign setting or dispose us to specific actions based on our understanding of that class.

Rolemaster has always identified itself as a skill based system but it didn’t take the concept far enough.  The fantasy RPG genre is now a mature industry and new game systems and literature are trying to innovate.  Now may be the time for Rolemaster to fully embrace its original mandate: to become a system where a character is truly defined by the sum of his skills and not by accepted class restrictions and aptitudes.  By doing so, RMs system can be more easily adapted to any fantasy setting, regardless of its similarities (or lack thereof) to Middle Earth, Greyhawk or any other high fantasy setting.

Discarding character classes does not make the dozens of professions already defined in the original rule set or companions obsolescent: these professions can always be used as Templates.   The question of what character class fits into any given world setting never need be asked; instead GMs can create or choose skill cost sets that fit the society, guild, group or organization rather than trying to shoehorn RM character class into their setting

Do you really need different professions for a fighter and barbarian?  Are not those differences more defined by racial type, dress, armament and behavior than skill costs?  Do you need 3 different classes for magician, alchemist and illusionist? All are Essence users, defined by the family of spells they specialize in rather than a few arbitrary differences in skill costs.

A basic examination shows that skill development costs are still driven by the very tropes that RM should avoid:  thieves are weak fighters that rely on stealth; clerics are good and heal; magic users can’ t wear armor etc.  If the goal is to eliminate class limitations, then why reinforce fantasy stereotypes or channel character development into these stereotypes?

Problems with my approach.

Moving to a classless system would alienate current RM players.  There are already several versions of RM on the market that players can continue to use.  Personally, I’ve always used the original RM system and never chose to adopt the new versions.  However in terms of changing markets and ultimately RM as  a commercial product; does it make sense to undergo a system evolution rather than just another iteration?  The development discussion around Arms Law is more than a polishing so why not take a new approach to Character Law?

There is some comfort is settling into traditional gaming roles.

We are currently playing through an Expert D&D module using Castles & Crusades rules.  While it feels like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers, its lack of flexibility is already apparent to our group of experienced players.  It may just be that if you played a long time, eliminating these stereotypes and expectations can lead to a novel gaming experience.   Certainly the latest fantasy literature is moving away from these traditional memes: Erickson, Lynch, Rothfuss are all good examples and it is popular literature that can drive contemporary game design.

There is a strong argument for classes, predispositions etc.

Eliminating classes would homogenize characters and/or create the optimized (min/max)  profession.  While I haven’t gotten to some suggested solutions yet, I see a place for both a classless system and classes as templates.   And no, I’m not suggesting the No Profession option already included in the rule set.  There seems to be a belief that an open skill system would lead to player optimization: maximizing key spells, weapons and a few other skills to produce the ideal character.  While new rules can still account for that, I would argue that this  already occurs under the current system.  A quick review of the new character classes, optional rules, talents and background options all point towards the trend to balance individual classes out and then expand their abilities beyond their designed skill cost assignments.   In the end you have an exhausting list of optional rules and exceptions that complicates the system and perhaps leads to game imbalance.  And all of it really driven by one base motivation: more character flexibility.

A few last thoughts:  Is there any really guidance, rules or balance to the current character class generation process?  Besides an arbitrary assignment of perceived primary abilities is there a really way to balance classes?   Does anyone believe that character classes are equal in balance and playability?

So let’s move on to few ideas.

Step 1.  Skill Bonuses.

Before we tackle a skill driven based system we need to look at both skill progression and costs.  Perceived character balance is created by the careful structuring of skill costs but may not take into account player motivations.  These decision points can be simplified as the sum of three components

1.   Additional benefit = (skill bonus increase)
2.   Cost of additional benefit  = (development point cost)
3.   Opportunity Cost = (decision to forego a different skill)

The three of these act as a measure of Marginal Utility, a common economic measurement of consumption and decision making.  In simple terms, players look at the cost of a skill, the additional bonus against other skills they may need or want when making their skill picks.  Even with high DP costs, most players can afford a versatile selection of skills.  That’s because the first 10 ranks offer the highest marginal utility per DP cost AND most skills are limited by a maximum gain of 2 ranks per level.  By capping skill rank increases per level you force players to choose the skills that provides them better cost/benefit than CORE skills.  In effect this system has an unintended consequence of reinforcing character classes/tropes. So the marketing effort is ‘no limitations’ but is really ‘play by the common rules’.

One way to address this is to modify the skill rank bonus progression.  The current system is simple: +5 for ranks 1-10, +2 for ranks 11-20.  I would suggest a different approach, starting with Rank 1 a bonus of: +1, +2, +3, +4…..+8, +7, +6, +5, +4 down to +1/2 after Rank 20.  Ultimately this gives you the same bonus at Rank 20 you have under the current system.  Not only would this change players skill picks since buying 1 rank of a new skill has less utility,  but the progression has a more intuitive curve.

As discussed previously, a change to the skill bonus chart will have an affect on player skill picks.  This would then be combined with a change to the skill DP costs: basically making skill acquisition limitless at each level with a marginal cost increase per rank per character level.

So while this system can allow a player to increase a skill at a much faster pace than the current system it comes with a much greater DP and opportunity cost.    If Caylis had chosen to gain 1 rank per experience level his total DP cost for 8 ranks of that skill would be 16.  Instead he used 29.  The combined effect of this change to the skill rank bonus and DP cost adds a third dimension to decision making.  A player that wants to excel at a particular skill early will be able to do so, but at a substantial opportunity cost of other skills.

The added benefit to this system is that it can not only standardizes character class creation but also allows for a classless system as well.  The best of both worlds.

In response to forum feedback:

Despite the thread title, which was meant to be evocative, I’ve carefully stated that this system works for both a skill driven system or applied to the current RM classes.  I did skill cost allocations for all of the original 18 classes in about 45 minutes.  If players/GM’s want to use the existing classes then it’s easy and quick to adapt.  If a GM wants to generate a new class based on his campaign setting then he has a toolkit that allows for an efficient and flexible method.  If a player wants to tweak the skill costs on his character than there is baseline for doing so(in this case 162 pts to allocate as skill costs assignments).

 

I was never arguing removing professions.  “Argument against Professions” was meant to strip away preconceptions and then rebuild the class/skill/cost framework consistent with the rules and spirit of the original RM.