Power Points: How Much Is Too Much?

We’ve been having an interesting discussion on the ICE forums about Power Points. Different editions of Rolemaster have treated them rather differently:

–In RM2, a typical level 1 Spellcaster might start the game with 2 or 3, and they would regenerate slowly. (I’ve been looking to try to find exactly how slowly in the Rules As Written, but it seems buried somewhere inaccessible. Since hit points recovered only 1 per hour if resting, or one per three hours if moving, we assumed spell points came back at the same rate. But if anyone can provide me with a chapter and verse on that, I would appreciate it!).

–In RMSS, Powerpoint Development was a skill, which meant characters could start the game with an order of magnitude (10x) more powerpoints. And while the regeneration rate was the same as RM2’s while you were not resting (1 every 3 hours), you also regenerated them faster when resting, and much faster when sleeping, such that 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep regenerated all your PP.

The discussion is relevant because the limits on one’s power point pool and the regeneration of power points were some of the primary limits on spellcasters, preventing them from being overpowered in comparison to arms users at low levels. With RMU rethinking some of these limits, it is helpful to get input from players as to what an appropriate amount of spell power should be.

So what do you think? It seems like RMSS users are used to a large pp pool and fast regeneration, while RM2 users tend to be more used to a small pool and slow regeneration. Where do you fit on the spectrum? How many pp should a first level caster have, and how quickly should she get them back?

18 Replies to “Power Points: How Much Is Too Much?”

  1. HP and MP inflation was one of my major complaints about RMSS, even aside from the complexity.

    My practice in RM2 was to give out a few spell point adders, spell-casting items, scrolls, and about level 3-5 start giving out low multipliers (a player who gets one in a background roll isn’t exceptionally powerful at low levels, so I’d kinda “encourage” those getting destroyed or stolen before they became a problem).

    This better matches fantasy fiction where magicians often have a bunch of ritual items, aren’t much without them, and don’t waste spells even then because power is expensive.

    HARP is far on the superheroic end (and I would expect RMU to be the same, should it ever be published), where magicians just spew magical power all day and all night. Who’d bother with a scroll in those, when power is so cheap?

    1. @Mark Damon Hughes: Yes, your game looks a lot like mine in terms of the progression of PP and how frequently I give out PP multipliers.

  2. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the RM2 model. There were enough ways to get around slow regeneration (PP multipliers, spell adders, and so on) that it wasn’t a huge deal. My games tend to be more gritty and lower magic, so that should be considered as well.

    Giving a first level caster more than say six or seven PPs is going to have cascading consequences as the character gains levels and thus more PPs. It’s been pointed out many times that casters overpower arms users at higher levels, and handing out PPs in bulk early just means that overpowering occurs earlier. That may be fine or even a desired outcome in some games, but it’s not in mine.

  3. Recovery in both RM1 and RM2 is Section 6.1, “Spell Casting Capabilities”. “Power points, once used, can be regained by a period of sleep or meditation (usually around 8 hours for humans).”
    While that could still be a bit ambiguous as far as points per hour, we always applied it as a binary option: less than 8=no benefit, 8 or more=all recovered. Meditation can shorten that.

    1. @Jengada and Voriig Kye: Thanks so much for finding that line about PP regeneration in RM2!

      We must have used it at some point, since we played very closely to the Rules As Written when we first started playing RM… but we must have houseruled it later or something.

  4. Having played both RM2 and RMSS, I’m a fan of the latter. It’s worth noting that once a spell user has used 25% of their PP, they start needing to make SCSM rolls (ESF for RM2 players), so spell casting can actually start getting tricky if the caster is blatting spells willy nilly.

    Last session our group had an Arcane Elementalist who was carrying an injury. I don’t require an SCSM check for injury, but I do add the penalty if a SCSM is already required. The group was mounting a raid on a well defended compound with a very low margin for error , and their plans were made on the basis that the Elementalist would not cast spells except in the most dire emergency if their PP dropped under 75% of max.

    I do strictly limit PP Multipliers in RMSS (to the point that they basically don’t exist). Even the slightly nerfed versions from Treasure Companion are extremely powerful under RMSS. Meanwhile, a 10th level RM2 spell user with 3PP/level and a x3 multiplier is quite probably ahead of an RMSS spell user for available PP. 2PP/level and a x3, or 3PP/level and a x2 will get them close to equivalent.

    1. @Phil: Yes, you bring up a good point that some other posters (I think it was Rdanhenry) brought up in the thread on the forums: that another limit on casting in RMSS was the progressive penalties casters took when they were below 75%, below 50%, and then again when they were below 25% of their max pp.

      RMU has simplified that to a single penalty at 50%. I confess we never used any of these penalties, as the bookkeeping was onerous to track. How many pp does the Orc shaman have left, and is 55 out of 73 over 75% or under? It was a bit of a hassle.

      I personally would prefer to see pp toned down but the penalties for having less than max removed, so that I don’t have to track monster pp.

  5. RM2 Spell Law, section 6.1, page 11: “Power points, once used, can be only be regained by a period of sleep or meditation (usually around 8 hours)”
    RMC Spell Law, section 3.3, page 25: “Power points, once used, can be only be regained by a period of sleep or meditation (usually around 8 hours)”
    So not only did the rule stay the same, the grammatical mistake of “be only be” was kept as well.

    1. Very good eye, Voriig. I’ve noticed spelling errors throughout the books too. 🙂

      I’m in the gaming model as Intothatdarkness in that I have a low-magic world. But I’ve heeded the warning of many other players who made the mistake of handing out too many PPx and PP+ items too early, then dealing with the OP Mages later on.

      But something I’ve noticed through my years of gaming, if the RAW are followed and the GM isn’t an overpowered-gift, overly-generous GM, the power creep is non-existent.

      Case in point: I have a level 2 mage who learned 2 spell lists for level 1. However, neither list had a level 1 spell to cast. He spent the entirety of level 1 NOT casting any spells and he still excelled, still contributed, and was still a very necessary PC to the party. He has a Daily +1 spell item but doesn’t yet know it as he hasn’t had the item successfully identified yet nor has he attuned to it, so that is still a non-factor in his overall power/value to the group.

      1. NOTE: If the RAW are followed more closely, I’m not suggesting that it is strictly RAW, but balance optional rules judiciously

    2. Interesting – that typo doesn’t appear in RM1. I totally missed it when I retyped RM2, but I was looking at both RM1 and RM2 when I wrote so maybe I read the grammatical version from RM1.

  6. Didn’t we cover this in a discussion on another magic post this year? I think Bri or Peter were positing the idea of a world where everyone had the potential of magic but not all were trained. We included some stuff from Chivalry and Sorcery about linking to exhaustion to bring out a bigger pool of power points but with a more pronounced effect. After releasing the biggest spells you not only need to rest you have to rest. I think I suggested that the spell level you could use could be higher than the user level as I do with my Channeling “prayers” but you make an RR type roll for success. All of which is a bit of a hack of a high magic setting. Mind you in Middle Earth – low power points fit perfectly.

  7. I am surprised no one has mentioned just delaying the pp recovery rate. I have been playing RMSS since it came out and we went to a fixed recovery rate pretty quickly. It gives the advantage of low level casters having enough pp to cast regularly and recover enough for low level spells, but high level casters were reluctant to cast everything because it would take days to recover.

  8. I wouldn’t do a fixed recovery rate, because that makes powerful magicians much easier to harass to death; whereas I mostly want players to have one shot at the big guys, so they prepare.

    I don’t have my oldest campaign notes anymore, but somewhere around RoCo3 (individual spell dev) I also switched to pro-rating PP recovery to 12.5% per hour of sleep (so 25% per hour of Meditation); the characters were doing some guerrilla harassment of an army (Myth Conceptions style) and sleeping was a rare luxury, so without that they weren’t getting *any* PP back. Under less pressure that can be a little overpowered, but spell items are still per 24 hours.

    (I see I typed “MP” above; most often I run systems that call it MP these days)

  9. I think one of the inescapable conclusions of the discussion on the forums is that players play very different sorts of games. Some are fine with very large power point pools and fast recovery rates (I suspect this is mostly RMSS people, since RMSS raised the number of pp available to casters by a massive amount). Others want lower pp pools and slower rates (I suspect this is mostly RM2 people).

    I am more convinced than ever that the solution is to give each group what it wants by using the existing concept of power levels to adjust pp regeneration rates. That way, people who want high-magic campaigns can set the regen rates to high, while people who want low-magic campaigns can set them to low.

    1. I agree regarding power levels. I’ve been tinkering with the concept in my own stuff to allow for games ranging in feel from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to Roger Moore and Moonraker, and to do that you have to use power levels effectively. Power level is one of the great hidden, and I think under appreciated and undeveloped, mechanics in RMU.

  10. I am late to the party here. What I struggle with in RMu is creating a low magic world at all. RMu casters can have a huge selection of lists and then power them with all the PP discussed above.

    Under RM2 RAW lists could be hard to learn, costing 20DP to guarantee learning a list per level.

    There were of course options to relax the difficulty but they were simply that, options.

    RMu has no built in limits on player magic.

    1. Yes, it has become a concern.

      I think we all felt that casters eventually surpassed arms users in RM2, though it might not be till quite high level.

      I imagine that that level was lower in RMSS, due to RMSS giving casters a much larger spell pool to work with at lower levels (i.e. making PP development a skill), as well as allowing casters to buy spells individually (rather than one list/’pick’ at a time).

      RMU has further reduced that level by eliminating prep rounds for spells at or below the caster’s level and raising the rate of regeneration of spell points.

      While I agree with some of these changes — as an RM2 caster, I never liked having to wait three rounds to cast a single Blur spell — I do think that the existing limits on casting need to be tightened. Things that might be considered, either as default rules or Power Level tweaks for low-magic settings, are:
      –Slowing the rate of pp regeneration
      –Limiting overcasting (casting spells higher than your level) by raising the prep rounds necessary to overcast
      –Increasing the PP cost of spells that are overcast

      Anything else that would help with the problem of the ‘Overcharged Caster’?

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