Personal Bugbear

There is one bit of every version of Rolemaster so far that I absolutely detest. That is the use of cryptic lookup codes. These are the codes that appear on the herbs and poison list and the monster locations/habitats.

It is the monsters habitats I really cannot stand. I know this has come up in the past but I was statting out an adventure the other night and these codes had me flipping back and forth through Creatures and Treasures yet again.

Black Stalker

This time is was the Black Stalker. This is the first line of their entry in C&T.

Black Stalker – [(–)–EK#–8]; 5’6″–7′;

At least it isn’t obtuse or unclear where these hunters are found! What is even more bizarre is the translation of these particular codes resolves as Enchanted/magical places and the cross-over points between dimensions and also ruins. Which is in fact wrong!

The whole point of the stalker is that it can be found anywhere. They hunt their designated target without fail, where ever they are. This really is like having the Terminator after you!

Creature Law

I was looking at the new Creature Law again and I noticed that these codes have finally been stripped out.

In the new Creature Law the Black Stalker has been somewhat toned down making them easier to defeat (slower initiative, weaker armour, poorer stalk & hide skill and the magical bonus on their weapon has been halved).

I don’t think toning them down is a bad thing but I was thinking about BriH’s goal of writing adventures for 50th level characters and these were going to be my go to villain. They were potentially too dangerous to use with a ‘normal’ party. They certainly punch above their weight on the battle field.

In my game I do not use the full breadth of the creatures in the D&D universe. Although I play in the Forgotten Realms the average module will have 20 different species living in the same location often with not a hint as to how they co-exist. I tend to slim those down. RM allows you to level creatures up and down so I don’t need to have kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, ogres, bugbears, owlbears, a gelatinous cube, two green slimes and a black pudding all in the same cave to create a challenge. When I am doing a conversion like that those dreaded creature codes can burn up 10% to 20% of all my prepping time trying make these things coherent and true to the setting and rules.

Good riddance to them is all I can say!

7 Replies to “Personal Bugbear”

  1. Pathfinder (and I presume D&D 3.x) both make it easier (well, possible; easy might take practice) to scale a monster so that it can scaled up and down in threat. Templates, class level, size and such can be altered. So you can have a really dangerous goblin.

    I remember spending some time looking through the herb charts which have similar listings to the monsters (although perhaps with more resemblance to words). They really aren’t the easiest things to use.

  2. These codes, charts etc all add to the perception of RM’s complexity when in reality it’s a simple, intuitive resolution system. This was part of my argument over on the forums about the new RMU critical results being too “busy”: hits, penalties, bledding, various stuns, fatigue and breakage are all crammed in there.

    I’m looking forward to your RM Kids project to see how you distill and strip things down. It’s probably a good exercise in deconstruction.

    1. I got the same impression, that the new critical charts are a bit too busy, so I checked through I think it was the old RM2 Slash chart and the new RMU Slash chart. I added up the penalties associated with each critical severity at that result (so all 00 results from A to E, then all 96-99 results, etc.). In the end, the penalties varied, but in absolute terms the averages were similar. The old charts did have a lot of ‘must parry next round’ results, which was hard to compare to the results in the new chart, and the new charts had a lot of fatigue, which in the end would result in lesser penalties since fatigue results go away more quickly.

      In the end, I thought that the total amount of penalties is not that different. However, it may be that there are more things happening in the new critical charts, since as you say we now have things like breakage and fatigue added in that we never had before. So in the end I think I agree that it might be good to reduce the total number of things happening in each result, just to reduce the bookkeeping.

  3. I’ve just read the Cepheus Engine SRD (which is basically Traveller). Rolemaster isn’t the only system with cryptic codes; Traveller and Cepheus Engine’s Universal World Profile is just as cryptic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *