Rolemaster Unified in 2015

I did say a while ago that I was going to give the gameable stats for both RM2/RMC and RMU for everything I write about. In Nicholas Caldwell’s directors briefing this month he says how well the second beta of Rolemaster Unified is coming along and there is the promise of the RMU Creature Law to come too.

I cannot see the benefit of statting things out for RMU Beta 1 when Beta 2 is just around the corner so for the time being I will skip the RMU stats and just stick to RM2/RMC.

What I am really looking forward to is getting some RMU stats for the Undead. There are a few adventures I would like to create using the undead as the main existential threat with an evil cleric or necromancer pulling the strings in the background. I like playing an NPC to the absolute max of their ability to see just what they could achieve.

This is one area where Rolemaster spell casters massively out-gun their D&D counterparts. In the AD&D that I used to play Animate Dead was a 3rd level Cleric and a 5th level Magic User spell meaning that the characters needed to be 5th or 9th level respectively to case it. In Rolemaster your evil cleric can go around raising his Zombies or Skeletons from 1st level although they will only last for a minute a level at that point. From 5th level onwards he or she can create permenant undead followers.

One of the beauties of Rolemaster spell users and spell lists is the way you can combine things. With Channeling users such as Clerics they can use Symbols to create your classic standing stone type shrine that will happily create an undead ‘guardian’ once a day if an infidel were to wander by. Again this is a 5th level spell. So even if the evil cleric isn’t at home when the players come knocking they still get to fight any permenant undead they ay have created and have others effectively respawn should the players return the following night.

Fearûn definitely has enough evil gods to give any GM ample opportunity to play with the undead, evil clerics and necromancers in abundance.

Rolemaster and Faerun

As a setting Faerûn can be a bit of a marmite setting. The diehard Gygax followers have never accepted it. Greyhawk adherents never needed it and it seems that with every new edition of D&D they feel the need to reinvent it. So why bother with Rolemaster and Faerûn?

I will not deny that Faerûn is not perfect. The original (grey box) edition barely sketched out the world as a setting for half a dozen modules and we were kind of teased into it by Elminster articles in Dragon magazine. After then there were so many seismic shifts that it is hard to keep track of it, gods dying, Mongolian hordes and volcanic eruptions not withstanding. Another criticism leveled at the Forgotten Realms setting is the über powerfull NPCs such as Elminster and Drizzt Do’Urden.

I, like many other roleplayers, cut my teeth in the D&D world, Greyhawk in my case, but then moved on to other games and other worlds. Last year I started to plan a new campaign after not GMing for a few years and I offered my players the option of a D&D game just for old times sake and I was surprised at the negative reaction. Despite that the D&D game had moved on generations since we last played no one was interested. We have always been dedicated Rolemaster players and that is what they wanted.

Setting a rolemaster game in Faerûn is pretty easy. Creatures and Treasures (I, II and III) cover 90% of all the creatures you will ever need. There are very simple rules included in C&T I to convert any that are not there over to Rolemaster and you are 50% of the way there. The other 50% is the NPCs.

There are numerous excel based spreadsheet type character sheets to help speed up character creation and my favourite piece of software (Rolemaster Charactder Utility) makes creating a middle to high level character the an hours work. This is where you can decide if you want and all powerful Elminster or not.

If you have a party of experienced D&D players then having a go at Rolemaster, even with a fairly simple adventure will be an eye opener (in a good way I hope)!

I am a RM2/RMC (Rolemaster 2nd Edition and Rolemaster Classic) player but there are other flavours available including a freebie 3000L_HarpLite (High Adventure RolePlaying) which has everything you need to get playing.

Why not give it a go?

The Moray Rat (A Forgotten Realms Creature)

In my Monster Snobbery post I mentioned a creature that is unique to the Forgotten Realms setting. This is the Moray Rat, a vicious variation of the normal rat that is the staple monster killing diet of many low-level characters.

What makes the Moray unusual is that it has nasty backward angled teeth that mean that once it has latched on to its prey it cannot let go or be shaken off. It will hang on to its prey until it eventually bleeds out.

Game mechanics-wise treat the rats as standard rats but if the rat delivers a critical that does at least 1 point of bleeding damage per round then the rat is attached. It will no longer attack but it just thrashs around worrying at the wound. I would give the victim or helper +50OB to attack an attached rat but I leave it up to the GM to decide what should happen if you try to hit a rat attached to your own leg and miss.

A Sabretooth Rat. Image by allison712
http://allison712.deviantart.com/art/Sabertooth-Rat-109701170

There is of course the option of the Moray Giant Rat but that is your own choice.

Morays tend to be found in much smaller numbers than typical rats due to the fact that their natural internal squabbles tend to lead to more fatalities which keeps numbers down. They are perfectly suited to living in burrows, pipes and crevices where prey may wander in as opposed to living in large packs and scavenging.

PC Perils #3 I Will Arise!

After my last PC Perils post (Whats in the hole?) we left the party facing trolls, hill giants or maybe an entire abandoned mine complex. We catch up with them again fleeing the woods and heading for higher ground and so their adventure continues in our little photo story.

Is that some sort of spire I can see through the trees?
Is that some sort of spire I can see through the trees?

Is that some sort of spire I cna see through the trees?

341
Yes it is a definite spire

342
It doesn’t look like a church.

344
What on Earth is that? It looks like a three sided pyramid.

345Hmm, that says “Resurgem” above the crest or “I will arise”.

346

Who puts a door in the side of a pyramid? Wait a minute what’s that?

347

Oh you are kidding me right? Someone has tried digging their way into the burial chamber of whaterver it is in there!

So there they are having emerged from the woods to find a granite pyramid wth a door in the side that someone has had a go at and inscribed in Latin “I will arise”. The family crest reads Nil Desperandum” or Never Dispair.

This just has to end badly for the party doesn’t it? In a world with magic and ‘long door’ or ‘portal’ spells the stone door is no barrier to something magical within but would stop frightened peasants from getting in and burning the thing whatever it may be.

From a real world point of view this pyramid is real and really is at the top of the same hill with the abandoned mines in the previous perils post. The person who paid for its construction also left a trust fund to have local children brought up to it every 5 years to dance around it. It was intended to be his burial place but by chance he was away in London when he was taken ill and died just outside the city. They still open the doorway every 5 years to see if he has risen from the dead yet as per his instructions despite the fact that he isn’t in there. If you want to read a bit more about it there is a wikipedia article about John Knill.

As a GM there are never enough really good reasons to use the undead if find and it would be  a shame to pass one up.

It is now officially unofficial!

I made a few changes to the blog today and here is the story why.

I woke up this morning to an email from Colin @ ICE which was a pleasant surprise.  He asked for a few things, They wanted a link to the rpgnow site on the blog (you can see it to the left now) but more interestingly they asked if I would make it clear that this was an unofficial blog and put a link to the official blog (also on the left now).

As Colin put it “They thought this was the official ICE blog”. I am not out to masquerade as anything I am not so obviously I was more than happy to make the changes. What is interesting is who ‘they’ are? I kind of hope it was some completely new people first discovering Rolemaster for the first time. That was sort of the reason for starting this blog, to spread the word about Rolemaster.

The really cool thing is that Colin has offered to share pre-release copies of products for review. I really hope this turns out to be possible as I could then give you all my personal take on the new products.

Watch this space!

Monster Snobbery

I am perfectly happy to admit that I am a snob. Not just any kind of snob though, I am a monster snob. I am running my campaign set in Faerun and the Forgotten Realms but using Rolemaster in preference to AD&D. There is no problem doing that and Rolemaster gives you a set of conversion rules (Creatures and Treasures pg 92-93) for doing the job. As it happens the majority of common monsters have already been converted so there are not that many to do most of the time. So where does the monster snobbery come from?

Part of the conversion process from AD&D to Rolemaster is in balancing the adventures. A pair of 3rd level AD&D fighters may well wade through 2-24 Kobolds but you try that in Rolemaster and you have a pair of very dead fighters on your hands probably in under 30 seconds. You need to balance the encounters for the much more dangerous combat system for a start. Sometimes you can just reduce the numbers encountered but that often just isn’t an option. Any sensible Dark Lord would not just put a single guard at every gateway, they don’t use just three warders to escort the party of five PCs who have just been captured and that viking longship did not just have two rowers!

So  if you cannot balance the game and the challenge there where do you look? Many of the Forgotten Realms source books provide starting adventures and that is where my party of adventurers are right now below the Tower of Ashaba. In addition to the Drow they are going to have to fight, the main point of the adventure, there are a number of incidental encounters.

Here are the cast of monsters (just the races not the numbers) that make guest appearances as one-off encounters:  Aballin, Cave Badger, Gambado, Gelatinous Cube, Huge Spider, Moray Rat, Mud-man, Piercer and Rats. That is quite a cast and that is in addition to six additional races including a Drow priestess and an evil magician that make up the core adventure.

Now looking at the supporting cast an Aballin is a pool of intelligent living water and a Gelatinous Cube is a giant single cell creature. It is these two that I have a problem with. Funny enough a Mud-man I can cope with. There is enough wild magic around (akin to Eassence storms on Kulthea) to animate a Mud-man, after all there is an awful lot of life in a pool of goo. I just cannot believe in malignant intelligent water or giant cubes of jelly.

Working on the principle that I am god ergo I don’t like it so it doesn’t exist. And that is probably the ultimate snobbery. If I don’t like you, you don’t count. This also goes part way to the balancing of the adventure.

There was another creature in that cast that you may not know, the Moray Rat. This is a Faerun creation and one that I do like. I will share the stats for them in a future post.

A Drow Fighter RMU vs RM2

I have created a Drow fighter using the current Beta version of RMU Character Law. I have tried to stick as closely to the previous Drow warrior I used for comparing the four elven races so as to be directly comparable.

To boil down a character to the absolute minimum I have a little comparison table for you.

System DB Primary OB
Perception #hits Stalk/Hide
RMU 15 38 11 53 15
RM2 20 35 8 49 -25/0

The RMU character is 2nd level and the RM2 character is 1st level but if you take into consideration that an RM2 character goes through Apprenticeship and Adolescence and before becoming Level 1 and starting play both characters have two levels worth of development points and a single lot of stat gain rolls.

So the RMU character has slightly higher OB, perception, #hits and Stalk & Hide skill but the RM2 character has a higher OB. To be honest the differences are negligible.

If you look in more detail at the character sheet then you will see that we have lost the blind fighting skill, Iai Strike and the tumbling skills. Those skills do not exist in RMU (yet) and the Tumbling Evade works slightly differently. What the character does get is a much wider education, a greater range of combat skills including more weapons and unarmed combat and I said when I created the original character that I wanted to buy Poison Lore but couldn’t. The RMU character has Poison Lore (2 ranks).

What this has shown me is that although I quite liked the stripped down skills lists, that demand will almost certainly that they be reinstated. All the mechanics are in place for how blind fighting would work (it would be a Combat Expertise:Blind Fighting, the cost would be 1/2, no stat bonus and it would reduce the penalty for fighting whilst blind). Iai strike would be identical and it would reduce the penalty for drawing a weapon in the same round as your attack. It is all there ready to roll but that just means that so is all the skill bloat. It may not be quite as bad. Mechanical:Traps seems to serve as Build  Traps, Set Trap and Disarm Trap and that has to be an improvement. I never liked having to separate out Build and Set as two skills.

Just so you can go over them here are the two character sheets. The RMU one is a bit rough(!)

Just to clarify a little bit of shorthand I have used. After a skill it may say something like RC1 or C1122. That means that the first skill rank came from his racial background and the second from his culture the third from his 1st level DPs. In the second example he has one rank from culture and bought two ranks at each of level 1 and level 2.

I hope that makes sense.

 

Boys from Brazil or the Girls of Genghis Kahn?

Everyone knows that nearly every 12 year old girl wants a pony. Now I had always assumed they were suitably conditioned into the Barbie or Cindy lifestyle and because Barbie and Cindy have ponies then they must have them too. But No!

I can shockingly reveal what those 12 year olds are up to with their little ponies! As this film shows they are training to become a  horde of Amazonian. Were you aware that there is an army being trained right under our noses to fight on horseback? Whatever happened to teenaged girls sitting at home on Facebook, Habo hotel and MSN and having anxiety attacks everything they leave the house?

Less ‘Hello Kitty’ and more ‘Hello Genghis Kahn’.

Maybe they are the hope for the future, with North Korea hacking computer systems all over the world from Sony to South Korean nuclear power stations these children have turned their backs on technology and provide us with an unhackable hidden defence should the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea decide to invade.  Less ‘Hello Kitty’ and more ‘Hello Genghis Kahn’.

I am all in favour of everyone getting out more, taking exercise and learning new skills but at what point did someone think “Gymkhana would be so much better with weapons.” (Actually, to be fair, I have not been to a gymkhana for 35 years and it could be that every parent there could be thinking that.)

The moral of this tale is, I suppose, that the next time you are driving along and you see a horse on the road you have better slow down and pass them carefully and show a little respect because you never know…

May that be a warning to us all and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Quaggoths and Boogin

These are the two races/creatures I discussed last week as being both tied deeply into Drow culture. These two are in my opinion near perfect low level monsters to throw at beginer parties.

Why? Well if you look at their stats below they have a low OB, low-ish DB and not many hits. So they should in theory be easy to kill. When you are very low level with a poor OB yourself it is in many ways easier to kill a large creature than it is a man-sized one. If you are only doing A & B criticals then the chance of getting a killing blow is probably just 1% but Large criticals are open ended so you have a 5% chance of getting a takedown as any open-ended critical is enough to take out one of these guys.

It is not just that they are easy to kill that makes these two interesting though. They both have the tendency to go into a Frenzy. this gives them effectively more hits and a higher OB (+30). So if the characters are doing well then they can go into a Frenzy and get tougher if they party are doing badly then they are unlikely to go into a rage and they stay relatively weak. If they do go berserk then the tactical advantage goes to the characters and there is a likelihood that a Quaggoth may accidentally take out one of its allies.

When the party meet the Quaggoth they could be just in a small partol of just two or a small tribe of over 20. They may be lead by Boogin, their more inteligent half breed cousins or even orcs. Finally where you find Quaggoths and Boogins you find Huge and Giant spiders.

All in all you get a creature that is both weak and defeatable but also challenging and dangerous, you can use them in small encounters on their own or in mixed groups of varied races and species. Finally they are so closely linked to the Drow that I would suggest that a character with Faerie Lore (a fairly common skill) would recognise them as a race often enthralled by the Drow. Thus a single Quaggoth could be a plot hook into a bigger adventure.

So down to stats…

I have used the standard rules from Creatures and Treasures I to do the conversion to RM2/RMC

Quaggoths

Quaggoths are sometimes enslaved by other races, notably drow. Quaggoths usually live in underground lairs. They are about seven feet tall and covered in shaggy white hair, though brown-haired quaggoths are sometimes seen. When quaggoths live above ground they are savage, bestial hunters who live in nomadic tribes.

AT3(30), MV 150MS/AQ VF, Level 2, #Hits 20, Number encountered 2-20. Attacks Lge Claw (30OB) or Greatsword (20OB). All Quaggoth are immune to poison. They are 11′ tall and take Large criticals.

70% of Quaggoths groups are unarmed and will fight with their claws but 30% of groups will be armed with greatswords. For every 12 Quaggoths encountered there will be a leader wielding a battleaxe.

Quaggoths can speak haltingly and have a vary limited vocabulary.

They hate all surface dwelling elves.

Boogin

Boogins are brutish, hairy orc-quaggoth crossbreeds sometimes known as “spider killers,” a nod to the constant pressure from drow slavers. These half-breeds are more like quaggoths than orcs, though slightly weaker and more in control of their rages than their beast side.

AT3(30), MV 120MS/AQ F, Level 3, #Hits 55, Number encountered 1-10. Attacks Greatsword (35OB) or Spiked Club (20OB). All Boogin get +100RR vs poison. They will go into a Frenzy when attacked to get +30 OB and x2 concussion damage.

Boogin are the slightly more inteligent half orc/half quaggoth cousins of the pure quaggoth. They are often employed by drow as overseers of quaggoth patrols and are better able to follow orders.

 

Race Ag Co Em In Me Pr Qu Re SD St Chn Ess Men Poison Disease Size Fat Hits Rec Life DP
 Quaggoth -2 +1 -2 +1 -2 -2 -1 +2 immune L 25 x1 100 11
 Boogin -1 +1 -2 +1 -2 -1 -1 +2 immune L 25 x1 100 8

 Traits and Flaws

Quaggoth
Immunity to poison (costed the same as immunity to disease), Giantism I (11′ tall), Natural Armour AT 3, Natural Attack (Claw), Animal Empathy (Spiders), Frenzy.

Boogin
Immunity to poison (costed the same as immunity to disease), Giantism I (11′ tall), Animal Empathy (Spiders), Frenzy.

I have not created these races as player character races. I am just aware that there are a lack of creatures for the RMU playtest and with these, the drow I published this week and the orcs goblins and trolls from Character Law and the few creatures from the sample Creature Law (add in the special mushrooms and fungi from the herbs and poisons tables for good measure) that is almost enough to run an adventure into the Underdark.

The Drow (a Rolemaster Unified Race)

A while I ago I created a direct comparison between a Wood, Grey and High Elf and a Drow Elven fighter (see my previous post on Elven races). As part of my commitment to Rolemaster Unified (RMU) I started to look at adding Drow to the list of races provided in Character Law.

The way that stat bonuses work in RMU diminishes their importance somewhat in comparison to RM2 (especially if using the Companion I background options). Gone are the days of walking around with a +40 Strength bonus. Because of this I did not really feel the need to adjust the stat bonuses as provided.

Here are the stat bonuses for a High Elf in RM2 and RMU

System Ag Co Em In Me Pr Qu Re Sd St
RM2 +5 +5 +5 +10 +10 -20
RMU +2 +2 +2 +2 +2 -4 -2

You can see that the basic concept of the elf is the same with pretty much the strengths and weaknesses lying in the same areas, although RMU elves are physically weaker it would appear.

What really defines the races are their racial talents. I have never used talents before. I believe they first emerged in Talent Law, a RMSS book I do not own and have not read. RMU also uses Talents and as a way of defining the particular specialism of one fantasy race over another they do work very well. RMU gives every race a number of bonus development points (DPs)  as a one-off bonus, the more the races talents benefit the race the less bonus DPs, the less bonuses or even if the Talents are actually flaws then the more bonus DPs you get.

The RMU elf is the most talented race in the starting line up and as such get the least bonus DPs. There talents are immunity to disease, meditational sleep and nightvision. OK I am happy with that, that is exactly what you would expect to find if you opened up an elf and looked inside. So how do you turn a generic elf into a Drow?

Firstly the Drow are well documented as being totally insensitive to light. They live in the underdark and if they do ever venture to the surface they only ever do so at night. RMU usefully has a light sensitivity ‘flaw’. I have given the Drow a -75 when operating in full daylight.

Secondly nightvision is not going to get you very far in the underdark but RMU has the option of Darkvision. This allows you to see in any natural darkness. This is just what a Dark Elf needs to stop it falling over the furniture so we have that.

According to all the sources on the Drow they have two innate spell-like abilities. Levitation and creating Darkness. You can add innate spells to a race by buying them of their spell level. In this case Levitation is 4th level so 8 points and Darkness is 5th level (Dabbler base list).

That is it. The Elf now looks exactly like the Drow in the books and given the net pluses and minuses of buying talents the Drow get 7 bonus DPs.

The first character I will be rolling up will be our Drow warrior from my previous post who in RMU terms will be a Drow Reaver Fighter. I will attach a character sheet as soon as I have one!

Looking at the RMU playtest discussions on the ICE forums one of the issues seems to be a lack of monster stats for running a test campaign. This Drow race gives anyone wanting to playtest the new RMU an evil race to use in addition to the goblins and trolls provided in Character Law.

One Thursday I will be giving you the Quaggoth and Boogin races meaning you run adventures set in the underdark.