Read Through Reviews

There is HARP, RMC/RM2, RMSS/RMFRP and there is RMU. Most of the readership here seem to be in the RMC/RM2 camp. Up until last month I had only a vague understanding of just how different RMFRP was to RMC.

I cannot say I like RMFRP but I can see that there are some good elements in it.

On the other hand I read the HARP Fantasy rules last year and I did like what I read. I have also bought HARP SF and Folkways but I haven’t even read them so I have no valid opinion.

So apart from admitting my general ignorance I thought I would steal someone else’s idea educate myself as well as anyone else that is interested. The idea comes from the TakeOnRules blog. What the writer did was read and discuss one chapter of the Stars Without Number rulebook in each posting. Trying to cover an entire game system in a single post can often miss some of its best features especially if you have never actually played the game.

So I want to do something similar with HARP Fantasy. We all know RMC/RM2 so I want to do a detailed walk through of the HARP rules relating them back to RMC/RM2. If this proves popular I would like to do something similar with HARP SF as my next Sci Fi game will be HARP SF. Finally, Folkways is probably the newest ICE publication I have and the one that the least people will have read so I thought a decent review of the actual book would be valuable.

This will not be a rigid “The next 20 posts will all be on HARP”. I am too scatterbrained for that. If something peaks my interest then I will write about it or if something is important then I will discuss it. I think there is a lot of HARP DNA in RMU so I think that these articles could be interesting to the whole RM community. I also think that it will give us RM players a better understanding of HARP.

TakeOnRules failed, in my opinion, in so much as they got about eight chapters in and then I don’t know if there was a loss of interest or the summer slowdown killed it but whatever happened the series has been stagnant since mid-July. I will take any feedback as we go on how to make these the most interesting reads that I can. We also have the advantage that HARP and RM are sufficiently close that something great in HARP could easily become a house rule in RM. As to the timings I may try and whizz through some of these faster than one post a week. Things still seem a bit slow on the forums so we can help fill the summer RPG vacuum.

16 Replies to “Read Through Reviews”

  1. I’ve got Folkways too, but I haven’t read it yet either. A scan through it did show that large parts of it were generic, rather than being only for HARP.

    1. That was one reason why I thought Folkways could do with a decent examination as it is relevant to all RM GMs. One part of RMFRP that is better than RMC/RM2 is the treatment of player races and I kind of hope that Folkways brings those tools to any flavour of RM.

      1. I’d actually say that large chunks of Folkways are relevant to any GM, not just Rolemaster ones. Rather like the GameMastery Guide for Pathfinder or the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee book.

        1. I haven’t read any PF or the Flame Princess book so I will take your word for it. I was under the impression that Folkways was just a generally useful GM book but we will see when I get to review it.

          It would be cool if we can get a really good review if ICE start sending us review copies before release. I bet Hurin would leap at the chance to see the finished RMU rules before release.

          1. If you want to take a look at the LotFP Referee book, it’s available as a free download on RPGNow. Supposedly, it’s obsolete, but the replacement has been quite a few years in the making.

            Review copies would be good.

              1. I think I’m down to my last couple of thousand supplements to read!

                There’s as a free version of the Rules & Magic book for LotFP too. It’s a pretty lethal OSR variant. It also has a compatibility license, which is why I’m interested.

                    1. My problem with OSR games is that they seem rather simplistic in comparison to others. Perhaps they remind me of my youth…

  2. I can say that I have never looked very hard at HARP since RM2 is my favorite. However, having looked at RMU, my opinion of it is that the best thing ICE can do with it is dump it in the sewers where it belongs. It is a very sad pale imitation of what Rolemaster is supposed to be and I and my friends would never support a dumbed down edition like it. It is a completely sorry excuse for Rolemaster and should never have the name attached to it. Apparently ICE has turned into a game maker for pre-school and pre-teen children and has fallen into the new generation’s “gimme, gimme” mindset. It’s sad to see a great company fall so far.

    1. I am not entirely sure which bits you think are dumbed down? My impression, if any was that RMU as presented in the Beta2 pdfs was unnecessarily complicated due to the normalised creature stats and the dogmatic approach to the size rules and the size progressions. Most of what I didn’t like is either removed, hidden or easily house ruled around. There are still issues but they are easily solvable within the existing structure.

  3. I very much look forward to your blogs about the HARP rulebook, Peter. I’ve never played HARP, but I did play MERP (it was my gateway drug to Rolemaster), and I think you are right about some HARP DNA in RMU, so I would be interested to see how HARP works, if only to understand how the minds of the present designers of RMU work.

    In regards to what Marvin is saying, I think the two simplifications that I most object to in RMU are the simplified skill costs (i.e. costs by category rather than by individual skill) and the simplified attack charts (i.e. a Shortsword just uses the Dagger table +1 size, and the Claymore just uses the Broadsword table +1 size). I think these two simplifications really erode the the distinctiveness of classes and weapons. So I think he does have a fair point about those.
    I have partly solved the individual skill costs issue with my own houserule and skill cost charts by category; and adding an OB bonus can help to fix two-handed weapons, though ideally in the future we will get a new, RMU Arms Companion that gives us individual charts for all weapons like Claymores and Shortswords.
    Aside from those two simplifications, though, I like the rest of what RMU is doing. If we can only get the action economy fine-tuned, I think we’ve got a really great new edition.

    I do actually like many of the things RMFRP was trying to do. I agree with you Peter that they did make races more distinctive, which I liked. Reworking the stat bonuses so that you can just add them rather than having to average them was a good idea too. They also reworked some spell lists in ways that were often good (not always, but often), or at least more balanced.
    The main thing I disliked about RMU were training packages, which I felt were superfluous in a system that allowed any character to buy any skill. But that’s just me.

    1. I was specifically talking about the beta PDFs as issued and they had the calculation for size being done manually on every strike if there was a size difference and those size differences were not just creature vs character differences but also common weapons like the shortsword and claymore, as you say, and then charging. That was horrible. I liked the skill cost by category BUT I am looking at RMU from a no profession perspective so trying to differentiate a ranger from a cleric is non-problem when neither profession exists.

      Training packages are RMFRP not RMU, slip of the keyboard there. I understand what you mean though. I saw them as another 1000 options for the beginning player to wade through and if they didn’t then they were disadvantaged.

      On the other hand I really like the RMU cultures and that does hark right back to the original MERP.

      1. “Training packages are RMFRP not RMU, slip of the keyboard there.”

        I actually really did mean RMFRP there; I was mentioning it because you mentioned it in your original post. RMSS/FRP changed the stats to be additive rather than averaged.

        1. Where I did slip up was in my second last sentence: I meant to say that the main thing I disliked about RMFRP (not RMU) was the training packages.

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