Random Musings. Resistance Rolls in Rolemaster.

One of my recent posts discussed the basic concept of “Stats as Skills”. This ties into my whole experimentation with modifying the RM ruleset and creating a level-less game. Part of my research has led me to re-examining the whole concept of the “Saving Throw”. There has been a few other blog posts HERE and HERE.

Interestingly, Saving Throws are basically the same solution as Fate Points—a common house rule used by many RM players—but used IN ADDITION to RM resistance roles. Saving Throws were originally used to adjudicate powerful kill attacks (disintegration and dragons breath) predicated on a HEROIC assumption: unique and powerful individuals could somehow avoid a kill result based on luck, force of will or some superhuman effort. DnD established some arbitrary categories and situations that allowed for a Saving Throw and apparently in later additions switched to a stat driven resolution.

Rolemaster adopted the same conceit, but rather than a “all or nothing” approach, introduced a % of failure result (or the inverse of MM partial success) AND recognized the difference between “Resisting” a magical/metaphysical attack (RR vs spells) and “Avoiding” a physical/force attack (DB vs. Elemental Bolts). An improvement over DnD for sure, but is there a better way to handle RR’s?

Along the same lines, isn’t the use of both RR’s and Fate points allowing for double indemnity? It’s basically the same rule principle but gives the PC’s 2 mechanisms to avoid an unwanted effect.

I’m still playing around with various solutions, but have made a change in our upcoming session regarding Poison & Disease. Both Poison and Disease would seem to have little relationship to a PC’s level. They are physical, not meta-physical attacks, no different than an arrow or sword strike. A poisonous or viral attack is either delivered or not, and the impacts better addressed by the PC’s constitution and not level. So for Poison/Disease I’ve switched from level based attacks to the standard difficulty penalties to reflect the deadliness of the agent. (basically +30 to -100 although I use a broader, more graduated range). On the target side, the RR is now a Static Maneuver modified by the STAT (not bonus) plus any racial mods for Poison and Disease. So why the STAT and not the STAT bonus?

If the average player stat is 75 than a Routine +30 effect will be resisted pretty much all the time, barring a natural “01” roll. Results are than treated as a partial success/failure like any other MM/SM’s. A success still delivers the minimum effect since there was a successful bite/attack/puncture in the first place. Partial Success (76-100), Failure (26-75) and Absolute Failure (0-25) all induce the applicable effect categories.

Since I’ve moved Poison and Disease into a physical attack resolution all I’m left with for Resistance Rolls are Magic and Fear. I’m of the mind to make Fear also a level-less resolution, resolved with SD stat, with Fear attacks also defined by difficulty penalties like Poison and Disease.

That leaves me with Magic/spells. I’m still pondering this. Anyway, rolling Poison/Fear/Disease into the MM/SM resolution framework continues my push into a level-less game, better unifies game mechanics and doesn’t require any charts!!


19 Replies to “Random Musings. Resistance Rolls in Rolemaster.”

  1. I don’t think I’ll ever divorce Fear rolls from the concept of levels, honestly. Any system that doesn’t take character experience into account is (to me) always going to come up short in some critical areas. A first level character is far more likely to be disturbed by a skeleton, for example, than one who’s encountered them a number of times, so why base their save (or whatever you want to call it) on a stat that may never change? One of the issues I’ve always had with level-less systems is they don’t have a solid mechanism to take that into account, and if you do away with Temp and Pot stats you’re assuming a character stays ‘stuck’ at the same point no matter how old they are or how much they experience.

    One thing I’m still concerned about is the average stat idea. In RM2 you have a guarantee that at least two temps would be 90. With RMU you have no such safety net, and the experiences I’ve had with testing groups and rolled stats have been disappointing in the extreme (so much so that I’m using a roll modification table for stats for my modern stuff). With rolled RMU stats, characters will be (I’m afraid) much more susceptible to disease and poison if you take the level ‘safety net’ away.

    1. I agree on the Fear–there is a solid argument to made for experience/levels. On the other hand, many of the Fear effects in RMU are magically induced, not just situational, frightful or creepy. Perhaps a distinction w/o a difference.

      1. Although in Call of Cthulhu – a game that is truly level- and profession-free – having seen a skeleton before doesn’t make seeing the next one any better. In fact, it can often be worse; the more you see scary things, the more fragile your mental state. If you saw a hundred skeletons, well, you’d probably be dead anyway, scared or not. Of course, it is a completely different type of game.

        1. In RM the general existence of magic and the supernatural is a given fact and something people will have become acclimatised to from birth. CoC is starting from a very different place.

          Interestingly my profession-less and level-less house rules play very much like CoC and Runequest.

          1. I did notice quite a bit of similarity between the concept of a level-less and profession-free RM and CoC after reading a few of these posts, and both are d100 based as well.

            Perhaps a CoC adventure could be adapted. You encounter Great Cthulhu. Roll for surprise!

  2. I am an advocate for both level-less and stat based resistance rolls. (I allow the addition of racial modifiers on top of stat)

    I do still keep stat improvement over time so more experienced characters will resist more frequently than inexperienced characters.

    One possible mechanism is to incorporate the familiarity into the resistance difficulty. Do you all remember the RM2 experience rules with x5 experience the first time an action is completed or creature fought? I think it went down to half experience for creatures routinely killed.

    If we apply this to fear then the first time a skeleton is met it will be much more daunting than when you fight your 100th skeleton. The first time you meet a balrog though you are back into scary territory.

  3. I’m not a big fan of the level-less systems myself, though I have no real problem with them. I have some of the same concerns IntoThatDarkness does.

    Even some Disease might be easier to resist if you were a higher level character. Take chicken pox for example: this is something that becomes much less dangerous once you’ve experienced it once. I don’t know all the medical reasons, but it seems like some diseases you really only get once, and then have immunity or at least much higher resistance to them.

    You can also build up resistance to some poisons by taking small doses of the, I have heard.

    That said, I think the idea of using the stat rather than the stat bonus is an intriguing one. For some poisons and resistances, that could be a good idea.

    I also agree with ITD on stats. I think the RMU rules for stat generation make for exceptionally low stats, and that is a problem since starting characters in RMU are in some ways weaker than in other RM editions, and much weaker than in many other RPGs. The RM2 system used to make it highly likely that you had at least a few stats at their potential to start the game; the RMU way makes that very unlikely.

    Since the only real purpose of stats is to generate stat bonuses, my group has just done away with stats altogether; we just generate the bonuses directly. We roll 3d10 – 15 for each stat bonus, which gives a range from -12 to +15. This is more or less what the RMU system would give you, but without the extra step (and without the need for a chart) that the RMU system currently has. Then each character just gets a number of points every level or two to raise some stats. It makes for a much easier and faster stat bonus system– and eliminates the need for a chart in ‘chartmaster’.

    1. The only drawback to that approach, in my opinion, is when it comes to pure ‘roll against the stat’ type challenges. If someone is just trying to remember an important fact. I would ask them to make a memory roll (1d100 OE + ME stat bonus). The chances of making that roll are probably slim and the it is not like a skill that can be trained. Once your potential is set then that is it.

      Using the whole stat means that tests against the stat are now feasible and the GM can apply difficulty factors. It is like having the old Bend Bars/Lift Gates option again but with all the stats.

      I always felt that stats were under used by RM. There is an Appearance stat that is rolled but has no function in the game at all unless it is house ruled. It doesn’t even make it into the main list of stats.

      From a pure appearances point of view, seeing RM is a d100 system, having a stat of +3 doesn’t feel quite right. The numbers are just a bit too small to fit in with the other skills and bonuses.

  4. BriH and I have both independently gone down the reduced number of skills and more capable stats route. These choices do make even starting characters more capable than RAW characters when starting out. My experience of my house rules is that it has a built in acceleration to about the capabilities of a 5th level character and a tailing off somewhere after the equivalent of 10th level.

    1. Yes, players starting with average lower stats and using Stats for some resolutions means that there still is a “leveling progression”–as the stat improves so does the success rates.

  5. With regards to RR being level-less, I THINK that HARP uses a mixed approach with the ability to “develop resistances”. So all RR’s are skills: Physical Resitance, Mental Resistance, Magic Resistance (or something like that).
    If you want your level to matter, then make sure to purchase ranks in the resistances at each level up.
    Now that I think of it, it’s a similar concept to RMU professional skills, where just being higher level will not give you a boost to skills, you need to develop them (compared to RM2/RMC level bonuses).

    1. The ‘investing to develop resistance’ makes a lot of sense. As Hurin pointed out people have tried to build resistance to poisons by taking a little every day. If I ever need a blood transfusion then I want blood from a doctors receptionist. They must have been exposed to EVERYTHING(!)

      1. I’m not a fan of adding another level of “stuff buying” to RM in any form if it can be avoided. That means I don’t have a real issue with RRs being tied in some way to level and improving automatically. Why add complexity when you don’t have to? RM already has the reputation of having enough of that.

  6. I pondered the “resistance as a skill” but saw a couple of issues.

    First, it would need separate skills for Essence/Mentalism/Channeling–although once I discarded the realms as power definition than it could be simple “resisting Essaence”. Secondly, how would that work mechanistically? How does one train to resist magic? However, I did like the idea of resisting mental attacks through mind discipline and working that into mental focus skill.

    I use the # of skill ranks in Poison Lore as a bonus to resist poison–implying that someone training in poisons would build a tolerance too these agents.
    All of these comments are helping fine tune my thinking.

  7. I like the simplicity of using the stat for the RR, but if you wanted it to be dead simple, just use the Stat as the number that any attacker (including poisons and diseases) needs to have the attack succeed.

    This would be basically creating what DnD hilariously called your NADS: non-armor-class defenses. This system basically clarified the issue of who needs to roll and simultaneously reduced the number of rolls you needed for spell resolution to one: instead of an opposed check, a spell attack involves the attacker always rolling ‘to hit’ the defenses (just as a melee attack involves the attacker rolling ‘to hit’ the defenses. This could be used in Rolemaster quite easily I think. Then, players could build up their defences against spells by raising the stat; you wouldn’t need an extra skill.

    1. I do like that–sort of a THACO for RR’s….but…I’m trying to keep all the resolution mechanisms as unified as possible–they basically all work in the MM/SM framework except SCR’s and weapon attacks.

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