Rolemaster Skill Consolidation. Pt. 2


This is pt. 2 of an ongoing blog segment on Rolemaster “skill consolidation. The first part on the Channeling skills can be found HERE.

While character differentiation is important, the absorption of secondary skills into primary skills caused not only skill bloat but also a huge disparity in the value of various skills. For our game, one of the most effective consolidations is the use of the “Survival” skill. Depending on the environment, the Survival skill rolls up quite a few useful, but minor, skills: foraging, fauna or flora lore, bribing, hunting, tracking, weather watching, trap/snare, fire starting, shelter building, etc. None of those skills are learned in a vacuum, but are part of a larger survival skill set. Since we use cultural skill sets for adolescence, PC’s will have several ranks of Survival skill which encompasses the environmentally appropriate sub-skills.

At first, one of the biggest push-backs from my players was the elimination of the Tracking skill. Tracking has long been a main-stay in RPG’s, a core skill for a Ranger and a primary skill in the original RM rules. Probably a result of the Arathorn’s tracking the Uruk-hai and Gollum; key plot points in the story. In fiction, the tracking skill is used to great effect as an expository device but I’ve never found it of great use in any of my campaigns—at low levels the skill is somewhat ineffective and at higher levels spells can replace the skill.

But again, we didn’t eliminate the Tracking skill, just de-emphasized it as a stand-alone and made it part of a broader skill. There is still a bit of an arbitrary nature in our survival skill but as a few examples:

  1. Survival: Desert/Wasteland. Finding Water, Navigation, Foraging, Assess Terrain, Build Shelter etc.
  2. Survival: Woods. Tracking, Snares, Foraging, Fauna/Flora Lore, Field-dress, Fire Starting, Build Shelter
  3. Survival: Urban. Gather rumors, Bribery, Street Navigation, Barter, Assess Terrain, Contact Underworld etc.
  4. Survival: Ocean. Fishing, rowing, sailing, weather watching, navigation.

Much of this is common sense and the PC’s efficacy will of course be driven by their skill level. Any of course with “Meta Skills” there can be cross over with other skills like vocations: “Huntsmen” or “Sailor”.

What I’ve discovered is that even with very tightly defined skills, players will still make situational arguments in the game to broaden out the scope of that ability. As a GM that can be frustrating—you either get one or the other, not both: broad skills that allow for flexibility or specific skills that shouldn’t have any flexibility. I’d rather user fewer meta-skills that give PC’s the room to be creative.

2 Replies to “Rolemaster Skill Consolidation. Pt. 2”

  1. Tracking is an interesting example. In my campaigns it is a frequently used skill and a ‘must have’ for many of my players. The use of tracking in detective style adventures, looking for foot prints in the shrubbery and so on is popular. I have rolled read tracks up into just Tracking. Now the added information that read tracks provided is given to the players based upon the questions they ask before they roll the Tracking skill. A bit like telling the GM what you are looking for before you roll Perception.

    This sort of came up in a forum discussion about how many DPs to give each level. The guys that have 200 skills felt the game needed more DPs to be able to afford all these skills. I was arguing against having a different foraging skill for every enviornment (

    My arguement then was that there are certain general principles such as V shaped valleys are carved by water and U shaped values by glaciers, water flows down hill. In our world all birds and rodents are edible (if you don’t eat the feathers) and so on. I was saying that if the players were in a completely new part of the world (teleported in so literally knew nothing) I would give massive minuses to their survival or foraging rolls to start. After a while I would reduce the minus as they got to know more about their enviornmemt, what worked and what didn’t and so on.

    I use foraging for herb finding as well as basic hunting, setting of snares and fishing. I only have one foraging skill for all environs. The same goes for survival in my mind. One skill and the it is about applying the general principles of survival, securing food, shelter and water, fire starting and even basic navigation or not getting lost.

    1. Yes, I can see Tracking as an integral skill for gameplay, and it took me awhile to roll it into a meta skill. But..I don’t see tracking as a stand alone ability–more of a compound skill that relies on a number of things: understanding terrain, the effects of weather, identifying creature type.

      This ties into the “skill as lore” classification tiers I put up in a previous blog. I see tracking as a higher level sub-skill within the Survival meta-skill. Similar to tight-rope walking being a higher level sub-skill within the Acrobatic meta-skill.

      I didn’t want to assign a particular skill rank when a sub-skill kicks in; rather I first make the assessment based on the skil tiers, the players proposal and then assign a difficult modifier.

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