The Rolemaster Blog

Is RMU missing an opportunity to fix the rules system?

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

I have been doing a bit of homebrew rules writing this week and I have taken bits and bobs of other games and mashed them all together to get a set of rules that did a particular job. It isn’t rolemaster so doesn’t belong here but bits of rolemaster ended up in what I was doing.

Now if you take bits of different games you get different mechanics and different ways of doing the same thing. In rolemaster particularly RM2 if you look at how skills work you you get different ways of doing things in the same game!

Lets take buying skill ranks.

Some skills you can buy as many ranks as you like each level eg Armour, languages and spell lists.

Normally you can buy one or two ranks but occaisionally some professions can buy more etc Healers and First Aid.

Some skills have ranks that always give a +5 bonus eg Armour.

Most skills have deminishing returns eg +5, +2 +½.

Some skills each rank is only worth +1 eg Ambush and Stunned Maneuover

Some skills have multiple options so Stunned Maneuver could be +1/rank but could be +5, +2 +½.

Some skills can only cancel out penalties but not give a bonus such as Armour and Transcend Armour

Some skills cancel out penalties but can give a bonus on top such as Spacial Location Awareness.

Some skills have the same function or role as other skills but at different costs and use different stats such as tumble defence and adrenal defence, Iai Strike and adrenal quickdraw, spacial location awareness and blind fighting.

Going back to the costs some weapons and musical instruments use the same mechanic of the first you learn is the cheapest, the second the next cheapest and the more you learn the more expensive they get. Languages on the other hand all cost the same regardless of how many you learn. Martial arts has yet another mechanic for its costing with the prices remaining constant but prerequisites on what you can buy.

Some skills come with special rules attached such as iai strike that can have you throwing your own weapon away on a bad roll. Subduing is another

Is all of that really necessary? I can understand that some skills are moving maneuvers and some are static maneuvers and different rules apply but RM2 has reputedly 200 skills all told and apparently 200 rules for how to apply each one. I kid you not! You would have thought that sprinting would be a MM skill to be applied as a bonus to MM rolls when sprinting. Wrong! MM rolls normally give a result that can go over 100% to show greater that expected progress of faster completion times. It would make sense for sprinting to be a bonus and help get those over 100% results but instead sprinting has its own special table that limits the gains you can get.

Now that is only a tiny snapshot of the problems in RM2.

I don’t know RMSS/RMFRP but I do know the real sticking point for players of either RM2/RMC and RMSS/RMFRP is the skills system. RMSS has categories that you have to do something with before you can buy a specialism but it has everyman skills that operate a buy one get a dozen free or something. On top of that you then get training packages that I think give bulk discounts and talents that give bonuses or cancel penalties. I am possibly being unfair to RMSS but as you all know I love minimalism so it was never going to be the system for me. There is nothing wrong with it if it appeals to you.

So where does RMU come into this?

RMU has the opportunity to really sort out the mess of different mechanics for skills. Do skills cancel out penalties, the new Combat Expertise works that way but will any future flying skill or Spacial Location Awareness skill work that way? What will happen if you get an EO downward roll on a quickdraw/iai strike roll? Can you get a downward roll or will it be a fumble roll?

I am really looking forward to the final draft rules. I want to apply my classless levelless house rules to RMU and as such I really want them to sort out a long lasting structure that will prevent the balls up that was the RM2 skill system.

That turned into more of a rant than I intended. It was not supposed to be that way and RMC (derived from RM2) is my weapon of choice. The more I looked the more inconsistencies I found and the more of my own post-it notes I found in my old paper RM2 rule books.

I have only seen the Beta II rules and that does appear to be falling into the different rules for different skills trap with the Control Lycanthropy skill having its own rules as do Piloting, Jumping and Adrenal Focus. There are also different Knowledge tiers for lore skills that do not apply to more physical skills. I repeat though, these are Beta rules and not the final rules. I hope you can see the reason for my concern. if you start off setting a bad example it is very hard to fix it later.