Rolemaster Healing

A big part of Rolemaster’s color is the gruesome flair of the critical charts – shattered bones, sundered organs, arrows through both ears, 5 HP/round flesh wounds. To match that, the system has an exceptionally detailed set of spell lists for healing these injuries and putting characters back into play. Eyes destroyed by a Krush crit? “Major Eye Repair” will fix it at 11th level. Third degree burns? Frost/Burn Relief III is on an Open Channeling list, and it’s the same list any channeler should have for healing basic hit point damage. 

Character Law also includes extensive, fairly straightforward guidelines for recovery from injuries. Is it Light, Medium, or Severe? Roll for recovery time, and once the injuries have been healed, that’s how long you need to recuperate. Healing spells and herbs often include information on how long it takes to recover after they’ve been applied. 

There’s a missing step though, one that escaped my notice for four decades. Using the example from the books, Onree in his unsound tower that collapses will need 33.5 days of recovery time “assuming he is healed.” But what if he isn’t healed? What if he didn’t die in the collapse, but managed to drag himself out with his injuries, and there’s no one to set bones, splint limbs, etc.? His body will heal, but does that 33.5 days still apply? What state will he be in, with unset limbs and a severe head wound that went untended?

All of the recovery guidelines for time and permanent effects implicitly, and in some places explicitly, depend on medical attention of some sort, whether it’s first aid, spells from a magical healer, herbs, or a nonmagical medic’s help. There is no information to guide a GM in the absence of these.

In my own campaign, this came up with a fire crit that says the victim’s leg suffered “massive tissue damage, limb is useless” and the victim is at -80. The victim is the cleric, who doesn’t happen to have Concussions Ways high enough to throw Burn Relief III. They’re fugitives from the law, in a wilderness. What is her fate, without spells or other healing? How long does the party have, before her leg fixes itself but with lasting nerve and mobility damage? Assuming she’s healed, she’s rolled 10 days of recovery time, and rolled high enough to avoid permanent damage.

I’m now seeing the greater arc of “healing” as “treatment” and “recovery.” The guidelines given in Character Law assume treatment, and go straight to recovery. I’ve got to figure out the specifics for the burned cleric, but I never make specific calls on something when it looks like this big of a gap. I’m not medically trained (except for years of looking up the real-world implications of Rolemaster crits!) so these may be naive. But I’ve aimed for quick, easy, and consistent with the existing rules.

First, double the recovery time rolled on the “Healing Recovery Chart.” Healing with no treatment is going to be slower. Second, assume there’s going to be some permanent damage, as the body knits back together in a less than optimal way. A bone may not be straight, an organ may be permanently damaged. 

Each day that passes brings a bit of healing, but also a bit of permanent damage. I’m going to divide half of the starting penalty by the duration. Each day, that much of the penalty goes away, but the same amount becomes permanent. Proper treatment partway through the recovery period removes all penalty except for the permanent penalty accrued so far. (Following the existing rules, round the daily increment down and apply any necessary extra recovery to the first day. I would apply that extra increment of the permanent penalty to the last day, so the character has the greatest chance to avoid it.) 

For the burned cleric, the 80 penalty points will diminish over 20 days by 2 points per day, and the permanent penalty will increase from 0 by 2 points per day. At the end of the 20 days, the 80 has dropped to 40, and that matches the permanent penalty. If she gets treated 3 days in, she’s going to have a permanent -6.  Treatment after 12 days, she’ll have a permanent -24.

This would be my starting point. The penalty could be changed to apply to specific actions only, or left general. Other events could mitigate or exacerbate the recovery and penalties. “Permanent” can also be reduced to long-term. In my world, a lay healer couldn’t fix a bad injury that healed untreated, but a Channeling healer could transfer the badly healed damage to their own body, which would then heal.

What do you think? Too complex? Too simple? Too severe?

12 thoughts on “Rolemaster Healing”

  1. I like this. I’m penalizing my players using deductions on temp and potential stats, but I rather like the idea of an overall permanent penalty that accrues from major damage that is left unhealed. However, I think only magical healing will fully correct damage and penalties; physician care, or natural healing as you discussed should have some permanent effects. Of course, I’m speaking from experience as a 50 year old!

    I’m thinking of adding another stat line “Damage” with two numbers: temp penalty and permanent penalty.

  2. You might want to take a look at RMU, because it addresses wounds that are not given treatment. Take a look at ArmsandCharacter Law section 13.1 (Healing). Table 13-1 (Injuries and Recovery) simply applies a modifier to the recovery roll for injuries that are not treated. Injuries that are treated by mundane means, by contrast, have no penalty; and injuries that are treated by magic and herbs get bonuses.

    You could do a more complex system if you like, but the RMU rules at least do address the issue of untreated injuries, and offer bonuses for success at mundane treatment, magic, and herbs.

    1. Is there a version of RMU available now? I thought the beta versions were pulled down, and the new version isn’t out yet.

      1. As far as I know the beta rules are still up and available for download. Let me know if that’s not the case, but I don’t see any reason why the rules would be taken down (the developers did note that the beta forums will be taken down sometime soon, but they too are still up as I write this).

  3. I use exactly the same logic in my game for survival but not treated wounds. Essentially, though you have to remember that a -40 penalty is character death. If the character is unable to “retire”, they will most likely die in a subsequent encounter; even if you assume a skill level high enough to offset the -40 so they are not completely useless.

  4. Of course, the other part of the healing process not covered in RM tables is the risk of disease during treatment and recovery. After all most patients died from infection rather than from the original wound before modern surgical technology.

    1. Actually, RMU has that covered too.

      In section 15.6, on diseases, it notes, “After a failed recovery check involving an injury that broke the skin, the GM may require a disease RR (level based on virulence and how much infectious material is involved, at an additional -20 for burns).” This ‘septic infection’ then follows the rules for how diseases progress. Then, in the Healing section of RMU (13.1), they break down each type of injury (bleeding, bone injuries, burns) and how they can be healed (e.g. how cauterization works, what a splint does, etc.). These are some of the most detailed and useful healing rules RM has ever had, IMHO.

      I should note that RMU also gives the option of permanent injuries, the chance of which occurring ramps up dramatically if the wound is untreated.

      I really do encourage everyone to read the new RMU healing rules. They are the most clear and detailed RM has ever had, IMHO.

    2. I considered disease during recovery, sepsis. In this specific case, I decided not to add injury to injury. The fact the character is an elf with a +100 racial bonus against disease made that an easy call. The cleric actually thought of it on her own, and decided to throw Disease Purification on herself every morning, just in case.

  5. The original version of Top Secret had a fairly simple optional mechanic for dealing with what they called Temporary and Permanent losses (I prefer looking at non-magic or SciFi systems for these sorts of rules, because it’s something they often deal with in a simple way). In TS, if you used the Temp/Perm loss rules, they were based on Hit Location and the Severity of the wound (TS had escalating damage types as follows: Abrasion, Incision, Laceration, Puncture, Fracture, Internal Damage and a second category for Light or Severe wound – after hit location 2d10 were rolled for damage with the first indicating the Type of wound and the second the Severity).

    In some ways Temporary losses were close to RM’s combat results penalties, but they were applied as stat reductions based on a percentage (so a Serious Puncture to the Abdomen resulted in a 8% reduction to Physical Strength and a 6% reduction to Coordination). Those losses were recovered after the mission (in what TS called R&R), but depending on the wound type a percentage of the loss (rounded down) would become Permanent. Using the above example, 30% of the reductions to PS and CO would become Permanent.

    For RM purposes you could substitute the Crit rating for Injury Type, but the concept is still the same. It’s worth noting that in TS stats could be improved by spending XPs, so a Permanent loss could be recovered (although it would take some time…improving stats isn’t cheap).

  6. I favor minimizing the amount of ‘grit’ that drags on the players because there is only so much time available in sessions. Perhaps simulating being able to drag oneself to a key, feeling for it due to blindness, nerve damage, extreme pain, et cetera — before one collapses is exciting, though — but mostly in the short term. Life grinds me down enough (chronic debilitating injuries coupled with a history of poverty) so it’s not so appealing to have a ton of in a game. Younger healthier players may really like a ‘miserableness simulator’, though. My first short story was about an older woman whose life is a never-ending sequence of mundane hassles. No relief. The idea was that it was aging in microcosm. It’s easy to find that kind of thing entertaining when you’re young.

    I do have to say that I’m also not a fan of the MMO experience — where success is a matter of being a regenerative robot who goes through obvious motions. The Rambo thing (plot immunity from flurries of fire) also doesn’t appeal. I have played high-level Pathfinder and it felt like I was a deity and that was fairly boring.

    One group I participated in used crit charts for opponents’ injuries, HP for most player injuries, and critical fumbles for both. That was old-school D&D. It worked fairly well but HP really is very generic-feeling but it also doesn’t wallow in gruesomeness. Having the fumble chart often be the biggest threat to a player is a bit droll.

    (Linebreaks were included here but were stripped from a previous comment I posted on another page.)

    1. One of the things I really like about just about every RPG is that they are easily customisable to the tastes of the GM and players. You can go in any direction and drill down to any level of detail, from pulp to gritty simulation. As long as everyone at the table is onboard, there is nothing stopping you.

  7. Page 75 of RMFRP has a table and rules for natural healing when you don’t treat the wound. Short version is rank the injury as Light (minor penalties), Medium (-21 to -50, fractures, etc.), Severe (-51 or more, shattered bones, organ failure, etc), or Major (potentially fatal).

    Light wounds heal in 1-13 days, medium 4-78 days, severe 8-130. Major kills without treatment. But there are separate scales for burns, bones, cuts, etc. Head injuries heal slowest, for example. A severe skin/tissue injury (8-40 days) heals faster than a medium head injury (6-78 days). And there’s rules for nerve damage as a lingering effect.

    I like these rules, they have a nice mix of speed of use (just one role needed, two if you check for nerve damage) and there’s enough variety that it gives the feeling of realism.

    I am interested in the RMU insights people have shared. Has me looking forward to release.

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