My No Profession & Level-less House Rules

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

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

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

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The Neological Naga Demon and the Franken Game

That sounds like a terrible B movie but right now I am preparing to spend a lot of time on Nagademon, or more correctly NaGaDeMon, and having never heard the words Franken Game until recently I have found myself using it twice this week.

What is a Franken Game?

A Franken Game is a game put together our of parts of other games. Originally Character Law was a bolt on replacement for must of the Players Handbook, Arms Law was a replacement combat system and Spell Law a drop in magic system. If you decided to take HARPs scalar spells and dropped it into RMC then you are now playing a Franken Game.

I once took the vehicle rules from Car Wars and converted them to d100 and used them as part of Spacemaster. It makes a lot of sense. How big a part of Spacemanster are 21st century cars trucks and motocycles going to be? The answer is tiny so the developers could not justify spending hundreds of hours perfecting rules for them. How big a part of Car Wars are cars, trucks and moticycles? Probably 95% I would say so dropping Car Wars into Spacemaster boosted that aspect of the game in an area I needed for the campaign I wanted to play.

This is insanity!

The best rules for insanity has to come from Call of Cthulhu, so why reinvent the wheel? Just make the minor changes needed to make it look and feel like Rolemaster (think of that as the surgical stitching) and there you go. you have sown together your own Franken Game. Most of us have shelves of games you have played int he past but are not playing now. All these games have elements we really liked when we played them and bits that we didn’t necessarily like. Using them as a library of body parts allows us to customise our own games to fit the worlds we want to play in. It is also great fun and as long as you don’t break the rules too much in doing the conversion to d100 OE (open ended) then the original games play testing should safe guard your Franken Games balance.

NaGaDeMons Ahoy!

I mentioned this in my last post. National Game Design Month. It is the NaNoWriMo of the gaming world. Let me digress for a moment.

There is an old joke about a school caretaker bemoaning the throw away culture of today and how they don’t make things like they used to where you could repair things rather than just throw it away and buy a new one. Take this broom for example, they don’t make brooms like this any more… Its had 5 new handles and 7 new heads but it is still going strong!

If you had a game you loved but you thought you could swap out the combat system for something ‘better’* and then you think “hey I like these scalar spells!” so you swap out the magic system. After a while you think there has to be a better way to handle all this profession bloat and skill bloat. So if you replace character law, arms law and spell law are you still playing Rolemaster?

I think the answer is yes you are. If you have magic structured into realms and roles are open ended and combat is driven by criticals, these are the hallmarks of the rolemaster system.

On the other hand what if like the broom with the 5 new handles and 7 new heads, there is nothing left of the original system? I think at that point you have crossed the line from Franken Game to a completely new system. If you then make sure it all works together and covers all the bases then you have a new game on your hands.

Most GMs feel we could write our own game

Most of us [GMs] feel we could write our own game. Equally most of us never will. This is where the Nagademon comes in. It focuses the mind into a single month of effort to actully write up all those ideas you have about how to create a perfect roleplaying game and get them down into a document. One month to break the back of the project. You can take as long as you like with the editing afterwards and that sort of thing. you could even go one step further and put your game on RPGNow or Drivethru. Afterall what have you got to lose?

*better is in inverted commas as your better and my better could be completely different!

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D&D 5th Edition SRD and 5ex5

D&D 5th Edition SRD

I have had quite an intersting day today working as part of a two person team converting all of the D&D 5th Edition SRD over to D100. The project is called 5ex5 as in 5th Edition x5, th emost obvious way to get from d20 to d100.

What is interesting from the Rolemaster perspective is that it will make any future products based upon it very easy to convert to Rolemaster and many will pretty much be able to be used off the shelf.

Free content for RM GMs

If you consider how much is published on Drivethru or RPGnow for free or Pay What You Want, this could explode the amount of free content for RM GMs.

It sounds pretty easy just multiplaying everything by 5 so d20s become d100s and a +1 bonus becomes a +5 and so on. The reality is that in the Monsters section alone there are over 10,000 edits to be made. You would have thought that one could just find and replace to change one thing to another but it doesn’t work that way as you have to check every reference as no one wants a dice rolls for durations or areas of effect multiplied.

The inner workings of D&D 5th Edition

What I have learned to day is a lot about how D&D 5th Edition works. I had only read the free basic version rules before but today I have read in detail then entire combat section of the SRD and I am quite impressed. If nothing else I should walk away with a pretty good knowledge of the inner workings of 5e!

So how long is this going to take?

I have no idea but I hope it is only going to be a few weeks as I have decided I want to have a go at NaGaDeMon (National Game Design Money) in November and there is only so much of me to go around. I am not sure I will have the time spare to do both.

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The Week Ahead

You how some days you just know it is going to be a long grind and that is just the preparation for the next game session? i have one of those weeks in front of me. I have discovered a new task to hate and that is equipment lists.

I remember the days of not worrying about emcumberance and buying 200 torches for a gold piece. This week I am having to prepare custom equipment lists and lists of things that can be bought at a particular location.

It is entirely possible that this new place could become a long-ish term base for one of the characters I don’t want to ‘wing it’ and at the same time because of a shift in the available technology I cannot just half or double the prices in Character Law. So I am going through lists revising the weights of anything that is largely metalic downwards and increasing the costs.

That may not sound like a bog deal but the weight in metal is really important to essence and channeling spell users. If you introduced Aluminium or even polycarbonate into the Rolemaster universe then spell casters have a wail of a time. (Before anyone comments again, it is wail as is screams of laughter and not whale as in big fish as they are hardly known for partying hard!)

Anyway equipment lists got me thinking, as always the player is going to encounter someone who has this alien superlight equipment first and they are probably going to take a pasting because of the faster ad free movement and the armour plus spells combo.  I am pretty sure they are going to grab the opportunity to upgrade a lot of their kit while they are at it.

The question is does a GM every introduce something into their world that would at first glance appear to shift the balance of power without thinking about the consequences?

Or to put it another way, “What the GM giveth, the GM can take away.” It is an interesting idea though when you take magic and thrust it into a potentially high tech arena which is not necessarily metal dependent such as kevlar or polycarbonate based.

I already know the shortfall in this new technology I am introducing, why the players will prpbably not become aware of it and why the originators do not take it into account, but in the meantime I need to get back to my amazing new equipment lists and stock prices.

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Weekend Roundup: September 4, 2016.


Heading off to vacation but thought I would put up some interesting articles.!

I always wanted to include a Vomitorium into one of my adventures as a Pythonesque scene. I think we had it all WRONG!

It’s all about materials science.  Photonic Crystals.

Ancient Althan base? The mysterious EYE….

Or, a story worth keeping your EYE on.

Imagine the Flows of Essaence.

Lightning strike??? Maybe 40th lvl  Chain Lightning cast.

Haven’t we learned anything? Don’t #$%& with Elves.

Why? Obviously to untap latent Mentalism powers?

I will never tire of Creepy Clown stories.

Great PIC.

Sorry Peter, all is not LOST.

If only ICE had these production RESOURCES!

Stranger NEW Things.

September book release. Peter Hamilton.

ICE Directors Briefing.

Happy Labor Day!
















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100 Creepy Things and Events to Find in a Spooky House II – Book review

This is the third and final (at the moment) volume in the horror effects series by Azukail Games. This booklet (100 Creepy Things and Events to Find in a Spooky House II) has far less strange mists and fogs and noises in other rooms than its siblings but more architectural spookiness. You get more doors and windows that don’t go quite where they should, the classic branch suddenly breaking the window at night and other real Hammer Horror icons of the genre.

The production quality is equal to that of the other two ‘spooky’ publications and the content is equal, you get 100 special effects spread over 22 pages. Each is numbered so you could quite easily just roll a D100 or just pick the effect(s) you want.

The way that the events in this book are presented is very flexible, you get a lot of ‘if the players have lights then this happens, if they don’t then this happens…” sort of conditionals. This means that most of the events if not all will work even it things are not set up exactly as described. Afterall these are really just inpirations or as that horrible phrase goes “thought starters”.

Going off at a tangent; ever since I first saw the first of these books I thought that there was a potential adventure(s) in here for a rather twisted illusionist but I have taken that idea a bit further. The perfect villain is not not an illusionist but an Alchemist. A 8th level achemist with the following lists Organic Skills, Lesser Illusion, Rune Mastery, Invisible Ways and Essance Hand could prepare runes of light and sound mirages and telekinesis. These are only 2nd and 3rd level spells so the rune paper, which they could make themselves would only take a matter of weeks to create. If over the space of a year the Alchemist produced 10 sheets of 3rd level rune paper they could effectively ‘haunt’ any location they liked.

Illusions have a nice long 100′ range and using mostly sounds of thumps on the floorboards, screams and the sound of doors opening and closing etc. most of the atmospherics could be cast from rune paper at a safe distance. Telekinesis could be used to open or close doors or windows, again all from rune paper and from a safe distance. Once people are scared and running around looking for the source then a single invisibility spell and retire to safety.

Our alchemist could easily drive away peasants from a farm house and if people get brave or curious and start to come back then just throw more illusions at them. The rune paper is not lost when the spell is cast, it is just blanked ready for reuse. Our alchemist friend just has to recharge the runes the used. I would go so far as to say that because the illusions are not intended to last for ages, blood stains that appear and dissappear, a sudden scream from the attic and so on, attempting to detect essence is likely to fail as those spells detect active magic but the illusion is already over. Those higher level spells that can tell you what happened in a place in the past minutes or hours will not identify our alchemist as he is 100′ away and cast the spell into the attic but was never there himself. It is almost the perfect crime.  Once he is living in his stolen farm house then people seeing lights on in the place are quite likely to ascribe it to the ghost anyway. Should the alchemist be discovered then it is debatable from a peasants point of view which is worse having your house inhabited by ghosts or by an ‘evil’ wizard?

Someone in my games is definitely going to encounter this nasty little achemist.

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RPG Rant: #@$! Potions.


I hate potions. Ok, perhaps I don’t feel that strongly but I certainly don’t use them a lot., and thankfully Terry doesn’t use them either in his Shadow World setting. So what is it that bugs me about potions….

Potions are a common trope in early fairy tales and mythology, a standard in RPG’s and are a critical mechanic in many computer video games for health or hit point rejuvenation. Maybe that’s why it feels like potions have “jumped the shark”. Rolemaster already has a comprehensive spell and herb healing system–why duplicate that with healing potions?

I remember in my early days of D&D gaming we allowed players to “sip” a potion to test its properties. For instance a player would go a little transparent if it was a potion of Invisibility or feel “lighter” if it was a potion of levitation or flying.

Rolemaster has a fairly flexible system to imbed virtually any spell into a potion. I’ve seen GM’s allow Fireballs and Lightning Bolt potions–that makes little sense to me. Allowing Mentalism spells to be made into potions also makes little sense to me. Channeling isn’t much better–can a “Good” priest create a potion that can be used by a evil player? hmm….

So while I do have rules for “consumables” (candles, potions, charms, powders– items that get used up to activate the spell effect) I generally shy away from their common use. Potions are silly.

Just had to get that off my chest. Back to Spell Casting Mechanics: Channeling.

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Melos, A contribution to Aioskoru

Quite a while ago now I produced half a dozen blog posts in support of Ken Wickham’s Aioskoru world setting. Things than kind of went off the boil a bit and I didn’t do much more beyond describe NPCs, three settlements and some adventures based around a ship full of orcs.

So recently Ken emailed me and said that he had bundled up a lot of his Aioskoru material from his blog and posted it on RPGnow. He had kept the format simple so that it was easy for him to update but he was putting it our there. He has had over 200 downloads of the material he has produced which hopefully means that the setting may get more supporters and continue to grow and develop.

I am always willing to lend a hand so I bundled up my old blog posts, re-edited them to turn them into a coherent supplement and submitted them to RPGnow. They have only been up for a few days but they have already had about 50 downloads. You can download them yourself for free at the link below. (click the cover image)

Melos, A contribution to Aioskoru


The ship on the cover refers to the sloop full of orcs in the featured adventure material.

If you want to download it and you like anything in it then let me know whar you think!

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Revisiting Spell Law: Spell Casting Mechanics Pt. 2 Essence


Now that we’ve laid the theoretical groundwork in Pt. 1 I wanted to explore each realm in a bit more detail. Since the original Spell Law, Essence has included the traditional spells established by D&D: fireballs, teleports, sleep, charm, fly etc and most of the general accepted “rules” of Magic-User spells.

  1. Casting Time. Spells take 1-3 rounds to cast.
  2. Metal armor interferes with Essence.
  3. Spells require a verbal and hand gesture component.
  4. Spell Powers. Spells cover a very broad range of power but exclude healing and most “animist” style spells.

Our deconstruction of Spell Law forced us to look at each aspect of Essence spells and casting mechanisms and see where it lead us. In reverse order:

Spell Powers. As a drop in rule set for D&D, it makes sense that Spell Law would include the basic range of Magic-User spells. However, one of our goals was to create clearer differentiation between the realms, reduce some of the issues of over/under powered spells littered through the lists and imply a logical motive for spells. For Essence we decided that it was “physical” magic, akin to science” manipulation of gravity, light, energy, elements, physical objects etc. So first we tossed out the spirit mastery spell list which we felt was better served by Mentalism or Channeling. Then we re-grouped spells by similarity, effect, or motive source rather than have professions themed lists that were filled with disparate spells in power and effect. So Fly was moved to Wind Law and Gravity Law—basically the same spell but with different working mechanisms. In Wind Law the spell-caster harnesses air to create a cushion that lifts and propels the target where Gravity Law nullifies gravity but produces the same spell effect. This became our “machine test”—could an Essence Spell be created using technology, a machine manipulation of physics or generated by math/computer processing? If so then it was a good fit for the Essence Realm.

Components. Unlike D&D that included physical spell components in some castings, Rolemaster didn’t dig too deep into the actual process besides making vague references to voice and hand gestures. SW delved a little deeper with spell “colors” for each realm, good/evil and hybrid spells but that was more for setting theatrics. So what are these voice/hand components? It was apparent that Essence couldn’t be cast in the spell-casters native tongue—that makes little sense! Are spell books described as being written in Rhaya or some other social language? Does that mean that every spell has been transcribed into all the individual world tongues? Of course not. The implication is that the voice/hand components of Essence casting is a magical language of arcane sounds/inflections/gestures. This magical language is the trigger and focus for generating spell effects. RM has introduced Magical Languages, but more as an optional rule or a skill bonus to casting, NOT as the standard input for casting. If we accept that a magical “language” is needed to cast an Essence spell than we need to accept that the caster’s skill mastery of that language is important to spell casting. In other words, the Magical Language skill should play some part in the SCR.

Let’s use a metaphor. Assume that only legal contracts written in French are considered legal and binding (the force of law). You can have lawyers in various countries all with extensive knowledge of the law, statutes or legal specialties, but their ability to read/write French is going to define their ability to practice law and create legal products. In this example the lawyers are Essence Casters. They are taught/learn spells (law) but can’t utilize this knowledge unless they translate their knowledge into an accepted format (Magical Language/French). In our rules a spell caster can learn a lot of spells but their skill in casting will be dependent on their Magical Language skill.

There are a number of ways to connect Magical Language skill to casting. You could set a rule that the spell level can’t exceed the # ranks in Magical Language; you can use the Magical Language skill bonus for the SCR etc.

Encumbrance. It’s a well imbedded trope in fantasy RPG that M-U’ers can wear armor. In D&D they just made it an arbitrary rule w/o much rationale to enforce profession roles and group balance. In Rolemaster a convoluted process has evolved combining organic/non-organic material, ESF, Transcendence Skill and a whole lot of work-arounds that too me, just seemed silly and overly complex. You can read the forums about all the issues around Transcend Armor, calculating encumbrance type, channeling and casting etc. Our “Free Market” approach to our rule set meant that we build opportunity costs into skill choices and I wanted there to be an armor/encumbrance cost to Essence casting. Since we eliminated Maneuvering in Armor skill, we just use the encumbrance penalty (RMU) in the SCR. No need to worry about organic or inorganic material, no worry about what type of armor. However that encumbrance penalty can have a real impact on spell casting. Intuitively it makes sense. We see “Essence” casting as a conductive process—the caster is the foci of the effect using the Magical Language to gather, hone and release power. Any encumbrance on our around the caster will interfere with this conductive process, acting as an Insulator and disrupting the spell power.

Casting Time. IIRC D&D had varying casting times for each spell. Rolemaster introduced a standardized system of 1-3 rounds (10-30 seconds). 30 seconds seems like a long time, but we’ve switched to 5 sec. rounds so 15 seconds seems workable. I like the idea of varying spell casting times, but in a nod to convenience we decided to stick with the 1-3 rounds for Essence. However, we discarded the Class types and just assigned SCR penalties for casting in 1 (-50) or 2 (-25) rounds.

So that’s where our analysis led “Project BASiL” for Essence. Casting is determined by the skill in Magical Language, is affected by Encumbrance penalty, casters can decide on casting time but may take a SCR penalty and the Essence Realm is redesigned and organized to fit our concept/theme of the realm.

Next up in Pt. 3-Channeling!

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Azukail Games – 100 Creepy Things and Events to Encounter Outdoors

Azukail Games has given me another new toy to play with in the form of the booklet 100 Creepy Things and Events to Encounter Outdoors a sibling product to

Azukail Games aim to, in their own words, “Publishing RPG Supplements to Help GMs” and their supplements normally comprise lists of really useful things that normally a GM has to come up with off the top of his head. These could be NPC names, tavern names or books on the shelp of a library or in this case 100 Creepy Things.

The elements in this work are not confined to your typical haunted house so you get sinister mists and fogs, my favourite is a stray dog who’s lead ends in a bloody tatter s on. There will inevitably be some cliches in here as any collection that missed them out would be blatantly incomplete but there are enough things listed to keep it fresh for a long time.

If you are not running a horror based campaign then you will not be dipping into this week in week out but the whole point of just about every one of AG’s resources is to have them to hand for when you need them. Right now this supplement costs just $1.59 on RPGnow and it is definitely worth that and more. There is a huge potential here to use each and every one of the 100 events as the jumping off point for an entirely new adventure!


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