Rolemaster Unified Character Law

I decided on Friday night that is is kind of senseless to keep on plugging away at RM2 and RMC when although it is probably the second best roleplaying game every written and the best FRGP it is after all a very old system. Rolemaster Unified is the latest incarnation of Rolemaster and seeing as the guys who make Rolemaster make no money any more from RM2 but are working their socks off to make RMU as good as it could possibly be it seems churlish to ignore all their good work and stick to what I know.

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover
Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

Part of problem with releasing a new version of a popular game will always be inertia:

  • Why should I pay out money to buy a new copy of a rulebook I already own, know and love.
  • Why should I start to learn a whole lot of new rules just to carry on playing a game I already own, know and love.
  • Why bother changing rules when it will not make me a better GM or player but it will throw up a gamut or short comings in the rule books that I have already addressed in the rule system that I own, know and love…

You get the idea.

The answer of course is that there is very little new material for RM2/RMC and there will be even less in the future. House rules that you have put in place to make your game unique just makes it incompatible with other GMs games but a unified solution will solve that. If RMU succeeds then we will get a whole bunch of new players and GMs in the community and that will help us all out with ideas and new materials etc.

I am only just starting to read through Character Law now. What I have decided is that I am going to continue to write for RM2/RMC as that is what I am playing but I will also create everything in RMU as well and share it. This way I get more and more familiar with creating characters and adventures in the new system without having to learn on the job with a bunch of players chomping at the bit trying to run an adventure.

So in the future you will start to see RMU material here as well as the good old trusty RM2.

8 Replies to “Rolemaster Unified Character Law”

  1. I applaud you for your efforts and your conscience. Yes, it is far easier to say “I have so much money invested in this system, I don’t want to buy another system”, but ICE receives no recompense for RM2, unless the items are purchased directly from ICE. I still push/proclaim/preach/demonstrate how and why I believe RM is the best fantasy game system ever and I take every chance I get to try to introduce new players to RM and ICE products, but I am still very much on this side of the fence of not buying RMU, so much so that I have even posted those very words in the RM Forum on ICE.

    A new iteration of the SAME game has to be very compelling to get me to reinvest. I kid you not when I say I have all of the books for RM2, plus Oriental Companion and some Shadow World Companions. This is quite literally hundreds of dollars in 1980’s and 1990’s economy, not to mention college student budget. To get me to invest in another version of Rolemaster, the new version has to be VERY compelling and a remarkable change to the system. We are not talking about playing a fantasy game in one system such as D&D, then playing a fantasy game in RM, and playing a fantasy game in Warhammer. Those are completely different game systems within the same fantasy/medieval theme. In that instance, I can see purchasing different game systems.

    When you are talking the same game system, I have a much harder time justifying the costs. Case in point: we tried switching to RMSS when it came out. We each purchased a different core book to offset the cost and to eliminate one person being hung out to dry with spending all of the money. Turns out, we didn’t like RMSS despite all the great new features it offered. One thing that was very welcome was the consistent crit locations and it seems that was carried over to RMU and that is a much welcomed feature… but is that enough to get me to spend another $100 to play the same game; Rolemaster?

    Sadly, not yet.

    1. Yes, I agree with you. Right now I am not really in a position to comment one way or another on the whole system. I am just half way though Character Law and have not touched Spell Law and Arms Law yet. What I will say is that the authors are now thirty years older or so and the quality of the writing is significantly better, which is not reason enough to rebuy the books I accept.

      My first impression is that RMU is significantly better than RM2 or to put it differntly RMU does not suffer from many of the problems that I always felt that RM2 suffered from. I have never played RMSS and having read some every Guild Companion article on it and RMSS Gamemaster Law I will never play that game. It just sin’t for me.

      I share your opinion of RM2 in that it is probably the best fantasy roleplaying ruleset ever created but I feel that RM2 became a Frankenstein’s monster with so many additional books and optional rules and additional skills that it suffered from terminal bloat. I don’t own every book. I have all the core books and up to Companion VI. I hardly touched anything in any companion beyond III and I just bought them like a slave to the game system.

      If you ever played MERP then that is how RMU feels so far. I did play MERP and that is how I discovered rolemaster. RMU is like playing MERP without having to carry all the Tolkien baggage with you and with the benefit of hindsight.

      I am going to try and dual stat every thring from now for both systems in the hope that I will become pretty comfortable with creating everything needed for running a game before I am put on the spot and have to do it in the hot seat.

  2. I’m still trying to hold out for the next release of RMU before I make up my mind. There are a couple of things that I do like in RMU like the organized Crit Tables. The armour tables look good so far; it’s still twenty types of armour but cleverly disguised as ten.

    I’ve read through Character Law and Arms Law but haven’t touched Spell Law yet. I’ve been going through those two manuals for almost two months now, on and off, and I still cannot wrap my head completely around the character creation process. I don’t even want to tackle Spell Law yet.

    My group did play MERP first and they very often took out the MERP books during an RM session to check settle debates or to get a rules clarification on something. Perhaps indirectly I played MERP?

    As much as I love RM, the later Companions did come with a lot of stuff we never used, but it was fun seeing what new ideas were in there that could be integrated into our game world. It definitely could have been a Frankenstein’s monster if you let it.

    I’m still anxious, eager, excited to see the next release of RMU. I’m hoping it clears up a lot of the confusion I’m having with the character creation part.

    My hat’s off to you if you are going to post stats for both RM2 and RMU! That’s dedication and a love of the game!

    1. You are ahead of me, I am still working my way through character law. I think if you avoid the poits based stats then characer generation is going to be faster in RMU than in RM2 and definitely faster than RM2+Companion II with the million and one skills and definitely faster than if you start using things like the arms companion and other specialist books.

      The problem with points based generation systems is that it screams out to the min/max players out there to optimise. That is not a bad thing in itself but then it takes time to optimise something or you have a set formula that you have pre defined and all your characters end up the same because that is the most efficient.

      By tomorrow I will have not only created my first RMU character but also hopefully developed three RMU races. The Drow Elf and two other Underdark races.

  3. You’ve hit upon one of the handful of things that is really putting me off of RMU; the points based character development. It reeks too much of the D20 system and it’s just dropping points into stats and everyone has the same cookie-cutter PC at start up with a variation in maybe STR and DEX and INT depending on melee, bow, spell user. Everything else is the same. It’s boring.

    Honestly, and perhaps I am going into this with the entirely wrong approach, but we will be starting up D&D 5 in January, once we finish this World of Darkness campaign and I am just going to make a bunch of copies of my PC’s stats and once he dies, I’ll pull out a copy and change the name and stick him right back in like a video game life.

    I go to the game sessions for the friends and the camaraderie. If they are playing a game system that I enjoy, then that’s just an added bonus. D&D is still just a table top/board game to me, complete with the maps that get laid out on the table and the little figures that move around the grid.

    1. The way they have the points system is that everyone gets a basic 50 in every stat and then you spend 350 points on top of that. So basically the best you could hope for is a average of 85 across the board. You cannot even acheive that in reality as stats get more expensive as they get higher.

      If you roll the dice you are making 3 rolls for every stat, drop the lowest and remaining two become the temp and potential. Statistically if you created enough characters then 1 in 3 would have a natural 100 in at least one potential, something the points based characters will never achieve. I created a Drow warrior on Sunday afternoon and he had four potential stats over 80 including a 90 and a 98. He also had one temp stat at 84. This is way, way over what a points based character could hope for.

      The other side of the coin is that RMU does some things so well that I am severely tempted to ‘house rule’ them into my own game. Before I go further down that road I will have to read what the active play testers concluded.

      This version of the Beta does have issues but that is the point of beta testing.

    2. Regarding the points based system, it is optional and you can mix and match both types of character in the same game, even in the same party and it seems to have not significant impact for 7 or 8 levels when the potentially higher potential stats of the dice rolled characters come into play.

  4. I did like the three sets of dice rolls. I thought that was really creative and fun. The points based purchasing system is flat out for me. The randomness is what makes the game fun, makes the characters interesting, and truly adds the uniqueness to the game. What is the probability of rolling five characters in RM and having even two of them look similar?

    I am really anxious to see the next iteration of the RMU Beta to see what issues were addressed. I’ll go into it with an open mind again and I will read each core book as if it were the first time seeing it and I’ll try to follow through the processes the authors put forth, then try some more play testing on it.

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