Rolemaster the Christmas Movie?

I was obviously really busy when I was looking at a list of the most frequently shown films over Christmas on the BBC. I was very surprised to see how many Rolemaster movies make it onto our TVs each year!

White Christmas

The list is topped by White Christmas (18 showing since 1964). Despite the all the Christmas dressing this is obviously really all about the impact of both successful and fumbled social/influence skill rolls and how they can influence the best thought out GMs plotting.

Santa Claus: The Movie

Santa Claus: The Movie (10 airing since 1985) is a film about the use of the Rolemaster Companion II skill Gimickry, the Alchemy skill and the overly complicated rules for combining the skills and skill ranks known as Complimentary Skills and Intra-Skill Areas (RoCoII pages 16 and 17). Anything that involves rolling one skill to see if you can get a +15 on a different skill or on the other hand could have you adding half the ranks from skill No. 2 to those of skill No.1 could easily end up with your character producing exploding candy canes!

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz (9 showings). Now this is your classic RMU Beta 2 Creature Law play test. Everything from a Lion, Scarecrow and a golem are described using the same development points as the more traditional races, human and halfling (munchkins), and professions such as dabbler (Oz) and Sorcerer (Elphaba or the WWotW).

The Santa Clause

The Santa Clause (8 showings). This is the seminal work on the correct use of the Sorcerer Base list Soul Destruction up to level 20 (list portions B, D). Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, is subjected to the many of the spells in order including Neurosis (3rd), Guilt (4th), Paranoia (5th), Panic (7th) and finally Demonic Possession IV (13th) at which point Calvin is fully possessed by the Santa which is all know is an anagram!


Finally in the movie round up is Casper. This necromancy movie has been shown seven times since 1995 during which four Class V undead attempt to protect their earthly focus. Without magical weapons the only way to kill a Rolemaster Ghost is the destroy or disperse its focus.

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Play Test Session #1

Gao discovers the Emporer, still alive and grasping at a knife in his chest. Rushing to him and kneeling by his side Gao attempts us use his medical skill to preform first aid. the rules are very sketching on the scope of First Aid in RMU A&CL (Arms and Character Law).

I made the difficulty Very Hard (-20) and Gao rolls a 94 + 20 skill – 20 difficulty, a partial success, that should buy the Emporer some time. While Gao is working on the Emporer the doors to the apartments burst open and the Emporer’s body guard enter. They take one look at Gao covered in blood, knife in hand and the fallen Emporer. Putting two and two together in the way that only happens when PCs are around the enraged guards draw their swords and charge.

Gao knew things didn’t look good the minute the guards entered flees for the only other obvious exit, a pair of open doors on the a roof terrace that surrounds this end of the appartment. He easily out distances the more heavily encumbered guards but realises that the terrace affords no easy means of escape. He is faced with two options either out along the roof tiles or using silk ropes that suspend lanterns over a courtyard below. Gao opts for the ropes thinking the guards would not be able to follow.

A terrible agility check sees him barely hanging on when the first guard arrives, makes an opened ended Perception Roll and reaches out to grab Gao by the wrist. To avoid escape Gao tries to use his weight and strength to get the rope to break by swinging and jerking on it. Thankfully for him it works and he goes from certain death to near certain death as the rope snaps and he starts to fall to his death.

The result of the fall is 11 and a D Impact which reads Foe’s hand gets in the way, two fingers broken. + 2 Hits, -25, Ftg(-20), Daze but he is now on the ground with the guards up on the terrace and he is alive.

The guards start shouting the alarm and pointing down to where Gao is regaining his feet. Some of the guards leave the terrace to try and capture him.

Looking around for where he can run to take cover. To his left was an arch heading towards the gardens and palace kitchens and that was the way he went. He soon had plenty of soft cover and could hear a hue and cry going up looking for him. Gao broke into a shed and buried himself into some sacks of vegetables. He got another partial success on his concealment roll. A second attempt at concealment got the job done.

Another medicine roll with a bit more time spent on it allowed Gao to strap up his broken fingers. Outside he could hear the search come close and then move away.

All this took place late in the evening. Waiting a few hours Gao decided to try and find out if the emporer was alive or dead. If he lived then he could clear his name. Sneaking out of his shed he headed towards the kitchens when he heard movement. Moving quietly through the gardens were other armed men with drawn swords and theatrical masks hiding their faces.

Gao knew they were not imperial soldiers looking for because they were not dressed correctly, the way they were trying to avoid being seen and it was just not normal to have armed men running around the palace grounds like this. Assuming the emporer still lived then maybe these were sent to finish the task of killing him.

Gao attempted to sneak up on one and take him out using his martial arts. The modifiers for rear plus surprise stacked up to nearly twice Gao’s OB and his hit delivered an E crit that knocked the guy prone. A second strike with the prone modifier was enough to kill him having broken all his ribs. Gao then took his Qi Jian.

The night time raiders entered the palace via the kitchen doors as well as scaling trellises attached to the outer walls. Gao thought that the target was probably the Emporer and these assassins were there to finish the job. The most direct route was going to be us the trellis so he attempted to climb. I had reduced his penalty for the broken fingers because of this successful medicine skill earlier and the trellis was easy to climb. With a very good roll Gao managed to follow the assassins up the trellis and back onto the roof terrace. There he found a dead imperial guard and the doors were open into the Emporers appartment.

Gao failed to notice that there were two other assassins on the terrace and failed a perception check to hear either of them sneaking up behind him. Being a kind GM I did not kill the PC out of hand. Instead I had one of the assassins put his hand on Gao’s shoulder and whisper to him to “head that way.” whilst pointing towards the inner bed chamber of the appartment. Gao made an SD check not to cry out when he was touched by the assassin!

He didn’t really have much choice but follow the instruction as there as he didn’t feel capable of fighting both of them. Thinking he could double back and try and take these two out one at a time he headed to the bed chamber. Inside was the emporer apparantly asleep and looming over him was an assassin, sword raised, who stopped at the sound of Gao entering. Gao made a silent “Shh!” mime which silenced the assassins question and he turned back to the task of killing the emporer. Gao then took the opportunity to try and take the assassin down. He was relying on surprise and I requested a stalking check to actually move up behind the assassin which Gao failed. The bad guy looked around a fraction before Gao hit him so he was still hit from behind but not with surprise as he could flinch.

Gao’s strike dazed the assassin but did not take him down. We now had our first proper combat where the Action Point system came into play.

I hate the 2-20 initiative system, Rolemaster is a d100 system so why we have a 2-20 initiative is beyond me. Both rolled 10 for initiative both had a +2 for quickness. Gao has -1 for his momement penalty but the assassin had -4 this round due to penalties (-15 from the critical + -25 from Dazed). Gao went first. The assassin had turned to face him so Gao just did a full 4AP attack. The assassin already had his sword draw so chose to put all his OB into parry this round while he was Dazed. His movement options were limited anyway with Gao in front and a bed behind him.

Gao only clipped him for a couple of #hits but I made the assessing make a 0OB attack to check for fumble and he did actually fumble. an 07 on the fumber was a bit of a non event.

Round 3 and Gao wins initiative but is now facing an undazed assassin. Both go for a full OB attack. Gao blow to the assassins check leaves him stunned unable to parry for two rounds and knocks the wind out of him. The assassin cannot reply.

Gao keeps on pummeling the assassin and gets another decent strike in rolling an 85 + 48OB, + 20 for a stunned opponent – 10 for his broken finger. The assassin bits off the tip of his tongue and is bleeding, stunned and staggered and basically very unhappy. He has no OB left to parry with even if he could.

In a change of tactic Gao swaps to sweeps and throws to see if he can keep him stunned. The total attack is +155 and the resulting critical throws the assassin 5′ and is enough to put him unconscious. As he is bleeding 5 #hits a round that will actually finish him off but in just a few minutes.

Gao takes the opportunity to wake the emporer and explains that there are assassins all over the palace. He gave him the assassin Qi Jian. The emporer is really in no fit state to defend himself after the attack only a hew hours ago but it does suggest that Gao is not one of the assassins.

Gao then tries to take down the two assassins on the terrace. He has been very disappointed so far with how effectived martial arts have been so is hefts the sword. This gives him a 31OB instead of his 48 for unarmed strikes.

He attempts to stalk up to one of the assassins without being seen but completely fails the stalking. Thankfully assassin#2 failed his perception roll (obviously looking out over the palace and not back into the appartment). Assassin#3 does spot Gao and is a little confused as to what he is up to until Gao lashes out with the Qu Jian.

The attack cuts assassin#2’s two leaving him staggered, stunned and unable to parry and bleading. The damage delivered by the sword even with a OB that is almost half the unarmed attack was significantly better.

We now went to AP combat. Assassin#3 reacts first and has to move for 3AP to engage Gao. Gao waits for him to arrive and does a 4AP attack. Assassin#3 completely misses and Gao doesn’t do much better delivering #hits and no critical.

What followed was a couple of rounds of no one being able to hit anyone until Assassing#2 recovered. Everyone was parrying for at least half their OB and they all needed to roll roughly 80 to 90 or more to hit for any sort of critical. Eventually Assassin#3 landed a blow on Gao that stun/no parry’d him and that was lights out for him.

We ended the game at that point and talked about how it went. The players impression was that it was too hard to do anything. Skills that seemed quite good (+48 to +51) for a starting character just did not translate into a competent hero.

The positional modifiers in combat played a massive part in the overal effectiveness and that martial arts seemed very underwhelming compared to the sword attacks.

Gao is not dead, but he is now a captive of the assassins. The player is happy to carry on play testing and to see what happens to Gao.




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“Chartmaster” or “ChartLESSmaster”? Simplifying Rolemaster is Simple!

So, it’s December 12th 2016 and the official Iron Crown website has been down for 3+ days, stalling a number of thread discussions on RMU development. This momentary pause got me to thinking. Rolemaster has always been criticized for being “chart heavy” but with RMU and a few tweaks, most of the charts can be eliminated. My own house rules have already done a lot of simplification but even a quick review of RMU indicates that most charts are illustrative and not really needed during gameplay. In overview:

  1. Character Generation. There are charts needed for character creation: stat bonuses, skill rank bonuses, equipment etc. But these are used initially or when leveling up, not for general game play.
  2. “Cool” charts. As Peter discussed in an earlier blog—individual weapon and critical charts are really the unique differentiation for RM. Those really are the heart of the system.
  3. RR’s. The RR chart is almost intuitive and could be tweaked so that RR’s can be quickly calculated without a chart.
  4. Consolidating most mechanisms into a d100 “unified maneuver scale” framework eliminates most of the charts and streamlines the system. RMU has done quite a bit of this but there are still “one-off” rules that have a separate resolution process. Basically the unified maneuver scale is: 0-25 Absolute Failure, 26-75 Failure, 76 Partial Failure/Success and 100+ success. This scale can be applied to RR’s, MM, SM, fatigue, breakage and skill checks. In reality, No chart is needed for almost all Rolemaster action resolutions.
  5. Simplifying armor penalties and encumbrance eliminates a number of charts and calculations. I have blogged about removing the Maneuvering in Armor skill and consolidating it into encumbrance here. It’s also been discussed on the RM Forums. This step takes away quite a bit of charts, calculations and unnecessary complexity.
  6. Eliminate name tags. Qualitative titles like “Easy”, “Hard” “Absurd” or “Small”, “Very Large” or “Quick”, “Blinding Fast” impart general information but are really just placeholders for a numeric value. They may add atmosphere but all require a quick look up on a chart to translate into their game mechanic or modifier. By eliminating the name tag you eliminate a number of charts. For instance, when describing a lock door in a module is it easier to say (-30 to pick) or (Medium to pick)? I have blogged about this here.
  7. Master Mod Chart. All the environmental, melee, combat maneuvers and health modifiers could be reduced to a single 1 page chart. The same could be done for all the magical mods. The GM screen would be simplified and streamlined.

So let’s go through the charts and see what could be eliminated. (Using RMU CORE 2014 March 15)


2-1. Skill Ranks. A small simple chart that is only used for char gen and level ups. It’s also easy to remember. Result – Chart barely needed.

2-2 Maneuvers. The failure/success ranges are intuitive that there is really no need to refer to a chart. Difficulty name tags (casual, routine etc) can be eliminated and a simple range of -100 to +100 applied by the GM (btw this actually provides more range of difficulty for the GM to implement than the pre-set difficulty levels). Light and pain mods can be included in a master modifier chart (with melee mods). Other modifiers are mostly encumbrance related and don’t need a chart. So basically 9/10ths of this chart can be eliminated or simplified or doesn’t need to be referenced during game play. Result – Chart eliminated.

2-3 Movement. Name tags (creep, walk etc) can be eliminated and just use pace multiples of ½ to 5x. As Hurin suggested in a RM Forum thread, a simple penalty per pace multiple can be set. In addition, the encumbrance penalty can be applied to MM and to the total rate itself. Result – Chart eliminated.

2-4. Sizes. A useful reference tool but once a size is applied to a creature than it is not necessary. Eliminated the name tags (Tiny, Small, Huge etc) and just using the size # (I-X) makes size calculations easier (see next table). Result – Chart only used as reference to assign a size to a creature.

2-5 Attack Size. I proposed a simpler size adjustment system: 1/X or X/1 per size difference and +1/-1 to critical results per size difference. Simple and easy. It’s the system I’m using with Beta 2 although there were some changes to the combat tables in RMU Beta 3 that might skew results.  Result – Chart eliminated.

2-6 High Criticals. This info could be included on each weapon table so it’s easily referenced when determining attack results. With the new chart design there is room on each page. Result – Chart incl. in each weapon table eliminates separate look-up.

2-7 Hit Loss Penalty. This small chart could be rolled into the master modifier chart (with melee mods and lighting etc) or a GM could just apply a penalty equal to hit loss (rounded to nearest 10%). Result – Chart consolidated or eliminated.

2-8. Resistance Roll. Stat RR’s can be included in the stat section and the failure results can use the unified maneuver scale. Result – Chart eliminated.

3-1. Races. Needed for char gen.  Result – Chart needed for reference.

3-2 Race Sizes. Rather than apply a name tag: “S”, “M” or “L” skip to the actual “numerical size”: III, IV or V. The remainder is just char gen reference.  Result – Chart simplified and used for reference.3-2

3-3 Cultures. Chart used for char gen only.

3-4 Profession Spell Costs. Chart used for char gen and level up only. In our NO Profession rules we’ve eliminated this chart and apply a standard 5* cost to all skills. Chart used for char gen and lvl advance only

3-5 Stat Bonuses. Chart used for char gen and stat gain only.

3-6 Stat Gain. We eliminated this chart and just use DP’s to advance stats. However, RAW, this is only used on level advance. Chart used for stat gain only

4-1 Skill Summary. Reference only. Not needed in game play.

4-2. Skill Similarity. Simple enough that you don’t need to refer to it. Include in GM screen or eliminate it at GM’s discretion of skill use.

4-3. Animal Maneuvers. I’m not a fan of a separate modifier chart for every single skill. Some basic guidelines on difficulty modifiers would be my choice. Chart used at GM discretion.

4-4 through 4-9, 4-11, 4-12, 4-14, 4-15, 4-16, 4-17 These are a perfect example of chart bloat and adds to the perception of “Chartmaster”. These should be eliminated and used as presented with the unified maneuver scale. Perhaps some examples of what a “failure” or “partial success” could be included in the skill description but results really depend on context and situation. Charts redundant and should be eliminated.

4-10. Knowledge Tier. Useful and ties the skill/lore system together as discussed here.

4-13. Channeling Modifiers. Small chart can be included in nFUX master modifier chart. Chart consolidated into master magic mod chart.

4-16. Driving Maneuvers. Again this seems like “Animal Maneuvers”. Unneeded complexity, lots of modifiers for a single skill. Chart should be simplified or eliminated or moved to optional rules or companion.

5-* Tables. Talents should be optional rules but are not needed for regular gameplay. Optional

6-1 Coinage Standards. Basic reference. Keep

6-2 Starting Money. Only used at char gen. Keep.

6-3. Equipment Breakage. Should be further simplified into unified maneuver scale. Eliminate chart.

6-4 Equipment Repair. Should be simplified into unified maneuver scale. Eliminate chart.

6-5 General Equipment. Reference chart. Keep

6-6 Armor Chart. Reference chart. Keep.

6-7 Weapons. Reference Chart. Keep & expand. We’ve proposed shifting various combat maneuvers into weapon specific mods. Shouldn’t the reverse strike penalty be different between a dagger and a polearm? Chart should be expanded into weapon specific modifiers.

7-1 Action Points Action. I think there are currently changes being made to the initiative and round resolution system.  In development?

7-2 Charging. This could be simplified. For instance, the size category can increase by +1/pace X. Pace modifier would still apply. Chart eliminated!

7-3 Attack Roll. This could morph into the master modifier chart to include the handful of useful modifiers in previous tables (lighting, terrain, position etc). Included in master mod chart.

7-4. Disarm Maneuver. Lots of rules for one skill. Personally I think disarm should just be a standard result in the critical roll or purely a maneuver resolution separate from melee actions. Disarm, dodge, ambush are problematic powerful skills with complicated rule resolution. Work needs to be done.

7-5 Katas. These rules may need some work but there are only a few mods in a small chart. Include in master modifier chart.

7-6 Protect. Include in master modifier chart or review for simplification. It seems that this should only work if the Protector is at the flank of the defender. Move protect mods into individual weapon chart.

7-7. Slaying. It makes more sense to just have Slaying bump up the severity and not add to the crit roll. Thus the chart would be eliminated.

7-8 Subdual. Roll into master modifier chart and/or use individual weapon modifiers. Chart eliminated.

8-1  Armor Flexibility.. Delete and/or incorporate into 8-2.

8-2 Armor Type. Reference Keep.

8-3 Shields. Keep or incorporate into equipment/armor table 6-6.

8-4 Piecemeal Armor. Confusing—simplify into table 6-6.

11-1 Power Level. Optional but should be expanded to include other mechanisms to adjust (equipment, DP’s etc). Move to optional rules or companion.

11-2 Levels. Confusing? Needed? Eliminate.

11-3 Starting Money. Only for char gen. Expand into larger random table? Keep.

12-1. Endurance. Use unified maneuver scale. EliminateThe few mods could be included in the master mod chart.

12-2. Injuries and Recovery. Simplify?

12-4 & 12-5 & 12-6 Cauterization and Defibrillation & Decomp. Too complex, granular. Move to Optional rules?

13-1 Biomes. Useful as reference. Keep.

13-2 Extreme Temps. ? Optional rules.

13-3 & 13-4 & 13.5. Fright & Morale & Rally Consolidate and use unified maneuver scale.

13-6. Feats of Strength. Simply with an intuitive conversion of weight to weight. Eliminate chart.

13-7. Poisons & 13-8 Diseases This is something that needs to be simplified for game play. Perhaps create 1 affect/poison or disease and use the unified maneuver role scale.

13-8. Lighting. Eliminate and incorporate into master mod chart.

You’ll note that most RMU skill charts do follow the Failure/Failure/Partial/Success unified maneuver scale—but many skills have their own chart. That adds to the perception that RM has too many lookup charts for gameplay. Rather than include a chart for various skills, some simple guidelines on what a “partial success” or “partial failure” may look like to help a GM.

All in all, the total modifiers for environment, health and melee situations can be distilled into 1 master table. All the spell casting and magic mods could be distilled into another chart: 2 pages total. The few remaining charts are either reference, optional or used only at character gen or leveling up. You still have individual weapon attack charts, fumbles and crits but that’s what people love about RM. Everything else can fall under easy to remember, intuitive or quantifiable labels to ease gameplay. All the mods can be consolidated into 2 master tables. In other words, a unified rule system.

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RMU Playtest PC is made.

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

Our play test PC is called Gao Yao and he is an imperial messenger working within the Forbidden City.

This is the first RMU character we have created in a very long time and the first using Jdales new tables. I am greatly impressed with the improvement.

As a snapshot the character has 67 #hits which seems more than reasonable for a starting character.

A Perception Skill of +58 that is useful.

His best OB is +48 with Martial Arts strikes, then +32 with throws and +31 with his melee weapon weapon, a Qi Jian sword for which I will be using the Broadsword table (correct me if I am wrong).

Skills-wise his other highlights are his stalking at +43 and Adrenal Move Speed at +42.

The character has at least a passingly good chance of making some of the basic rolls needed to get by.

The biggest weakness is a DB of just +6, no armour and no shield.

His professional skills are mainly a mix of weapon and medical type skills. His Knacks are in perception and Martial Arts strikes.

To create the character we used the roll three sets of 10 stats and discard the lowest, the middle became the temp and the higher roll the potential.  Normally I would go for Point Buy but for speed we used dice and we used the rolls in order. I guess on a different day we could have put a higher stat in Quickness which would have improved his Adrenal Move Speed and his DB. As it is the character has a 91 Potential Quickness so if he lives that long everything could balance out. It took less than an hour to create the character which I though was not too bad for a rolemaster character but there was no magic involved so no comparing spell lists and pouring over spell law when normally takes and age.

Starting equipment I have only given him the clothes he is stood up in, a satchel of Imperial documents and a pouch with his 20 silver pennies known as Bao.

Technically he also owns his sword, the Qu Jian, a short sword, Duandao, and a horse in the Imperial stables but he does not have them on him as the way things are about to go south for Gao he could well end up writing them off!

The starting postion for the game is this.

Arriving at the imperial palace with a message for the Emporer’s eyes only Gao is ushered into the Imperial suite. As he enters the rooms are surprisingly quiet, there are no other servants and none of the usual body guards. As Gao approaches the Emporers study he sees the Emporer lying on the floor clutching at a knife protruding from his chest…

So we are all tooled up and ready to play. The first game session is planned for tomorrow evening. I will report back how it goes.

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Random Musings. War in RPG’s, Rolemaster and Shadow World.

Twice now I’ve run an introductory SW adventure in Emer that injected the players into the invasion of Miir by the Katra of Stroane (c. 6041 TE). The group, along with some interesting NPC’s (Bashar the Merchant and Livian a Cleric of the Festival) are tasked with uncovering the lapse in trade and communications along the northern coast of the Sea of Votania. Ostensibly this is a war scenario but the PC’s are still acting on an individual tactical level as scouts/spies. On the second run of this adventure the PC’s actually got involved in a full scale battle; a situation I wasn’t really prepared for, nor did I handle well. Rolemaster does have War Law and there are numerous other rule sets that would have allowed for battle resolution but I don’t have any familiarity with them. (I did play Squad Leader back in the 80’s!).

Since then I’ve thought about the issues of introducing mass combat and war into the RPG narrative. There are three basic aspects to this: integrating war generally into RPG’s, mass combat and Spell Law and the issues of Shadow World itself.

RPG’s. Again, most fantasy RPG’s have designed war/mass combat rules for conflict resolution and for use with miniatures. Rules aside, as a GM with specific goals in gameplay, I see role-playing and wargaming as two distinct “stories”. The former being personal/individual while the latter is more abstract and strategic. I’m not sure they co-exist peaceably in my setting, but curious on others views.

War and Spell Law. Before Rolemaster there was the “Village of Hommlet”. Reading that module was the first time I thought about the impact of fireballs on warfare and combat. In the module is a burned out foundation of a moat house—a structure clearly destroyed by a fireball at some point. That really got me thinking about how the accepted medieval tropes we use in RPG’s are really inappropriate once magic is introduced. What use is a castle when an attacking army has a mage with Earth Law? Many of the design standards of keeps, forts and castles are really pointless once you have powerful elemental spells. Other spells like Passing make entering an enemy installation fairly easy. Once you accept that historical fortification reasoning is out the door you can embrace truly interesting architectural designs. Form becomes more important than function. Some of my favorite SW buildings are those that eschew the traditional medieval elements of moat/keep/battlements: Tharg Jironak in the Iron Wind, Jinteni cities, the Secrets, the Dragon Lord citadel etc.

Two writers of note tackled magic and war in a fantasy setting: Cook with his Black Company series and Erickson with the Malazan books. Erickson was admittedly heavily influenced by Cook but his setting was driven by an actual RPG campaign. Both treat magic as pervasive, though users vary greatly in power and abilities. Combat in both series are very evocative of WWI trench warfare; magic is mustard gas and battle is gruesome, deadly and confusing. I think the ubiquity and disposability of magic users is the key here: a single powerful magic user could easily tip the balance of an army v. army battle. More interesting is the range in between: a few magic wielders on either side. Certainly tactics would dictate that an opposing magic user would be targeted first, making them vulnerable to assassination or counter measures. These “battles within battles” might fit well into a RPG narrative—it’s really two distinct battles where the magic-users fight each other while mundane combat goes on around them.

War in the Shadow World. SW has had many battles: Wars of Dominion, invasions by Ulor, the Raven Queen wars in Gaalt. But…in a setting where basic travel may require a Navigator due to unpredictable Essaence Flows and many regions are demised by physical Essaence barriers how do you move large armies or groups of soldiers PLUS the logistical supply lines needed for war and invasion? For me it’s simple: wars and invasions are rare in SW for these very reasons. Few nations have large standing armies and conflict is smaller and more personal. This puts the emphasis on player groups and the personal narratives of role playing. Wars are more a series of skirmishes and scattered actions than large fields of battle. The large wars are historic for a reason—they are notable for their scarcity.

Do you incorporate large scale combat and battles into your gaming?

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Upcoming RMU play test

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

I have so far unable to play test RMU because I have not had any players up for it or enough time to actually run yet another game.

This coming week I get to run a short one or two session ‘one shot adventure’. One player completely new to Rolemaster although not to role playing.

We have been sending emails and texts back and forth so I have a good idea about what his character is going to be like and the setting for this little play test is going to be an oriental adventure so there will be lots of martial punches and kicks flying about!

I haven’t really looked at at RMU for possibly 12 months now and I know that many of the tables have been replaced and I will need to print them off or more likely create a supplimental PDF of the new tables.

On the plus side I have not been able to participate in the RMU Beta forum threads as you cannot beta test a game you are not playing. I will be sharing my play testing experience although I am not sure at this late stage I will be able to add much. I am sure most things have been covered to death by now.

I am a little apprehensive about what I will find. When I initially looked at RMU there was a lot I liked and a couple of things I really didn’t get. I understand it has changed somewhat since then.

I have no experience of action point systems for combat round management but it appears that each one is on a par with 25% of your activity and if that is how it pans out then I can cope with that.

I will let you all know how it goes within the limits of the NDA agreement that we all agreed to when we downloaded the Beta rulebooks.

Wish me luck!

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Body Development

Rolemaster Logo

This is just a short post today as I am still thinking about whether I am going down the right road or not.

Do we actually need a Body Development skill?

Every race has a racial maximum so it is a bit of a development tax, every character has to buy it, on low level characters. Once you have maxed out your #hits you can just forget about it.

It is one of the more complex calculations and I have seen people posting on the forum getting the calculation for total hits wrong when it comes to a negative Con stat bonus.

The more #hits a character has the more leighway a GM has and the greater the staying power of a party. So more #hits is better than less.

So why not just use the characters Con stat + Racial Con bonus as their Total hits? It will still go up over time for most characters as their temp stat improves through stat gain rolls.

So I ask, do we need a body development skill that costs DPs? Can the non #hits elements of body development not be rolled into an Athletics meta skill?

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Musings on High Elves in Shadow World


I’m not a fan of Elves, but I am a fan of Shadow World. Can those two feelings co-exist? Fiction has exposed us to many portrayals of Elves but one constant is that Elves are very long lived or immortal. In a past RMU discussion, the immortal “trait” was discussed: how do you subscribe a value to a trait like immortality when it has little impact on gameplay?

From a world-building viewpoint, immortality has had a significant impact on the role of Elves. Reading through the Master Atlas, Emer and the other major SW core books, Elves make up the majority of the powerful characters in Kulthea. How could they not? These immortal NPC’s have had THOUSANDS of years to gain experience, level up and accumulate wealth and power. A general summary:

Priest Arnak: 100% Dyar

The Silver Dawn: 100% Erlin

Steel Rain: 75% Erlin

Golden Eye: 100% Loar

Loremasters: 60% Elvish

The Secret Circle: 100% (mostly Iylar)

Navigators: 30% Elvish

So we are left with a disconnect between the negligible impact of immortality on gameplay and its significant effect on the world order. How do these immortal creatures dominate the powerful roles they have in Kulthea. I have a few theories to explain this:

  1. Theory of Inevitability. Only immortality can provide the time needed to achieve higher levels, power and wealth. However if this is correct than mortal PC’s couldn’t possibly achieve higher levels. This obviously “breaks the game”.
  2. Theory of Racial Superiority. Something about Elves gives them a competitive advantage for resources or their natural abilities are superior to mortal races. However, if this theory is correct than there is an inherent advantage to Elves that favor them over other races. From a gameplay standpoint what could this be?
  3. Theory of Environment. SW is not really all that dangerous, allowing these beings to grow in power without threat or harm until the PC’s show up. However if this theory is correct than the PC’s are some sort of historical aberration: a gang of Elf killing, murderhobos. Like #2 this is a bit of a “game breaker”.

The only theory that really works is #2: Elves are superior to mortals. This superiority is not just immortality but some inherent ability or quality that allows them to surpass other races. So I’m reluctant to allow PC’s to play “High Elves” (Iylar and Linoeri) due to their appearance and implied superiority. Do they even fit as a PC in a low level adventure?

Anyway just a few thoughts–what’s yours?

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It is not the critical but the special effects that count!

I am building an NPC and this one is a going to have a few unique spells. I am not one that goes looking for work to do so I am more than happy to take an existing spell, change the special effects and see how far that gets me. Now want I wanted was a spell that tearst he world apart and hurls it at the players, so nothing too spectacular.

What is the easiest way to do this?

At first glance this seemed to be an extremely powerful version of the Hurling spell from the Telekinsis/Essence Hand lists. These pick up cobblestone sized lumps of rock and throw them at the target. If I wanted hundreds of bits of rock then this is a big step up.

I then thought about making it area of effect and that then made me think of Stun Cloud on the magicians Wind Law list.

4. Stun Cloud I – Creates a 5’’R cloud of
charged gas particles: delivers a ‘C’ Electricity
critical on first and second rounds, a ‘B’
on rounds 3 and 4, and a ‘A’ on rounds 5
and 6. It drifts with the wind and affects all
in radius. The cloud takes one round to
form, so anyone in the radius when it is cast
may make a maneuver to move out of the
radius without taking a critical; however,
after that anyone within the radius at
anytime in the round takes the critical
indicated (a maximum of one per round).

So if I turn the Electricity criticals into Krush criticals and the cloud is a vortex of flying stones, rocks, earth and debris would that fit the bill? I think it does. It is no more powerful than the Stun Cloud original but because the special effect is so different It is hardly recognisable in play when it is cast.

Now that is a cool special effect
Now that is a cool special effect

My players are so experienced that when we were playing in Shadow World the Mage’s player could identify spells and deduce professions and levels pretty quickly. They find it harder in my game for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I only describe the special effects and not the give the spell name. They were the target of a Shock Bolt recently and I described the caster touching the floor and white energy arcing along the cracks between the flagstones as it raced towards the character being targetted. As it happens the player said they made sure they were not standing on any cracks on the pavement and as it happens the shock bolt missed and now they think they would only be effected if you stand on the cracks. This was not a new spell, it was just a different description of a shock bolt.

Secondly nearly ever caster has at least one spell they have researched themselves in my game. I mostly do low level spells as if this is part of the casters passage from apprentice to journeyman. If there are genuinely new spells out there then the it is hard to try and second guess the level and profession of the caster.

So coming back to my Cloud of Debris spell. It would make a useful addition to Earth Law, a list that lacks much in the way of offence anyway. It is low level at 4th and I see no reason why this variant is any more or less powerful than the Wind Law version and it gives the the leighway to create either a larger radius version or a Death Cloud version if I need it.

In my game most magicians tend to only have one or two of their base lists, it is just too hard to learn spell lists to concentrate on just your base lists and ignore all the open and closed lists. A 10th level magician would probably only have 8 lists in total. At that point they also have to choose between learning more at 1-10th or learning some at 11-20th.

Given those conditions then Essence Hand + Earth Law plus at my new spell and you have an effective villain. A Death Cloud (Cloud of Stones?) version would weigh in at 11th level and deliver a couple of rounds of E krush criticals and 10 criticals in total if anyone was stupid enough to stay in the radius.

I like this idea, I think it fits the bill and it wasn’t too much work either!

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Rolemaster Diseases

Rolemaster Logo

Last week I visited a church built shortly before the plague of the 17th century hit Switzerland. This got me thinking about rolemaster diseases. What I have below is a house rule I have not yet had the chance to play or test. It has just been rolling around in my head for the best part of a week,

I apologise for having missed my last two posts , Friday and Monday, but as you can now guess I have been traveling. I spend most of my time in Switzerland but also went into the black forest region of Germany for my ‘Grimm Sword‘ project. But enough excuses, here is my idea about disease.

The current rules base the severity on the level of resistance roll failure. Fail by 01-25 and you get a mild form of the disease, 26-50 is moderate, 51-100 is serious and 101+ is extreme and normally terminal.

My House Rule

Recently I had a cold or similar virus, it seemed to rush though a day of headaches, a day of sore throat, a day of aching joints and then weeks of a running nose. There were days when I felt almost well again but then at least a week were I was too ill to go running. The point is that my health was not linear. I had ups and downs.

It doesn’t add much complexity, and none to the players side, to modify diseases slightly so they get three additional parameters.

  • Minimum severity
  • Maximum severity
  • Time period

  A ‘touch’ of Rabies

The minimum severity would specify that if the resistance roll is failed then rather than possibly just being mild (fail by 01-25) the minimum effect can be controlled. The idea is that it would stop someone just having a touch of Rabies but they will be fine tomorrow.

The maximum severity just specifies the maximum starting severity. I put this in place because of the nature of open ended rolls. The school I went to as a teen ager had 1200 pupils. Baring in mind that 1 in 20 rolls are open ended down and one in 400 are double open ended downwards you don’t want the common cold killing 3 students on average every time a virus went around the school. Put simply not every disease is fatal.

The final parameter is Time period. So a 24hr virus would have a time period of 1 day. Every day you get to roll a new resistance roll. If you make it you get one severity less ill and if you fail you get one severity worse.

Other diseases may have much longer time periods so you are saving every two or three days. This means that people can recover, have relapses, worsen and die and so on.

It makes sense that if the sufferer has lots of rest and food then they will get a plus to their resistance roll. Those that are physically active get a penalty. Characters may well choose to battle on though a minor illness. If they start to get worse and the penalties and symptoms are getting worse then they may think again.

Players quest

Every GM at some point has a players quest where they have to find some ingredient for a cure. Now the longer that quest takes to complete the worse the consequences are going to be.

What I think the real benefit is when the characters have the disease and the potential for them to get worse over time. I am going to apply the penalties they suffer from the condition, as specified in Character Law, to the future resistance rolls. So without help all but the strongest characters are more likely to slowly get worse, not better. All I need now is a magical disease that will infect those smug elves!

The only elves in my games right now are an elf and a half elf in my face to face game. I will not be able to test this is play until the spring. There is a definite plot in here somewhere!

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