I was going to go back to my long simmering Shadow World Spin Cycle blog topic, but since there is so much discussion around “meta-skills” I thought I would continue with rolemaster skill consolidation.

We’ve been using the RMU fatigue rules for several years now and before that used a simplified version of the optional fatigue points rules. As I’ve mentioned before, I think fatigue is a critical component of our campaign and a major narrative point in fantasy literature. (Frodo’s walk towards Mt. Doom as the penultimate example). Given that we had included “Endurance” as an important, primary skill. At first, the skill bonus was used for fatigue points and then later using the RMU beta the skill bonus was used for fatigue checks (rather than body development). I saw endurance/cardio fitness as distinct from body development and wanted to separate the two to allow for non-fighter types to have good endurance without the automatic benefit of more hit points.

In the past year we’ve further consolidated skills and rolled the “Endurance” skill into a meta-skill: Athletics.  We refer to this as the “Bruce Jenner” skill–think ancient Greek athletes and the decathalon. Athletics includes cardio endurance, hand/eye coordination, throwing (for distance not necessarily accuracy), jumping, running, hiking and even feats of strength.

While it could be argued that many of these subskills should use varying stat bonuses, I generally use Str/Ag/Co. The meta-skill is meant to be a broad indicator of general athleticism and physical games. Certainly a few of these lose some “realism” by not having more specific stat bonus assignments but for this one, simplicity wins out!


  1. I treat Athletic games in the same way that you do. When there was a forum discussion about this there seemed to be a division along movement vs manoeuvre skills.

    Skills like skiing, sprinting and distance running where seen as high results gave greater speed or distance when trying to chase or flee.

    Those skills had a direct impact on combat and strategic decisions.

    Throwing a discus for sport was not the same.

    I do not see the distinction myself and I am happy to use the one skill to cover all. I had a thought though while I was reading your post. There is ano on-going discussion about touch spells on the forum. If the game of ‘tag’ is an Athletics activity, could you use it to deliver touch spell effects?

  2. This goes to the core issue–you can take almost any skill and further divide it into more niche skills. The process really never ends as proven by the many later editions of RM!

    On a broader perspective, earlier cultures had less specialization with broader skill sets. Sure, athletes now use modern science, bio-mechanics and targeted training techniques to advance specific skills but it wasn’t long ago that athletes and soldiers utilized simpler training regimens for overall fitness and athletic skill.

    One aspect that I haven’t delved into is the greater emphasis on stat bonuses at lower levels in our game. One of the arguments for Professions is that it represents a person’s aptitudes and inclinations and thus determines skill costs. For me, that’s a flawed argument. I can make a PC with low physical skills and high mental skills and choose to be a Fighter. Why should my skill costs for physical and combat skills be lower if my inherent stats indicate a predilection for mental pursuits?

    It’s clear to me that stats should be more indicative of skill ability. I played around with skill costs set by stats–(this makes the most intuitive sense but needed to many rules). In the end I set skill costs all the same at 5*–but changed the skill bonus progression. At lower ranks, stat bonuses have an over-sized role in the total skill bonus and at higher levels with extensive training it becomes a bit less important.

    Last thought. I really disagree with the combat specializations introduced into RMU. Basically it breaks out some maneuvers that should be included in the training of a skill. Let’s take a Fighter with 15 ranks in Longsword. Should we believe he never trained in reverse strike, or fighting 2 opponents or protecting an adjacent fighter? Having combat specializations implies that those fighting “styles” are separate from the core training regimen. That doesn’t fit for me–that’s why we use # of skill ranks to offset those combat “styles” rather than a separate skill. Plus it keeps the total skill count down!

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