Brian: Attunement. In our rules, every spell ability in an item, power storing, recharging etc all require attunement skill. Plus, many althan/ka’ta’viir devices use mental interfaces which can be accessed with attunement. So even non spell-casters should have some ability, especially at higher levels.
Peter: Lore skills particularly those relating to herbs. Whether you use Herb Lore, Herbalism or Lore:Technical. I suspect that my game is a bit more hack and slash than Brian’s but being able to select the right herb and apply it is a key skill for my players.
Brian: Hands down it’s the size rules (which may be changed or modified). Such a useful tool for scaling deadliness of a creature, spell, object or trap within the rule frame. I understand that many people didn’t like the math, but it really is fantastic.
Peter: This was a hard choice and I am wavering between two possibles. I love the experience rules. I first saw them in HARP and I am really pleased to see them being used as the default rules in RMU. I was using the HARP rules, house ruled into my RMC game but now I am using the RMU rules in their place. My other love is Spell Law, pretty much all of it from the completed spell lists to the use of the spell aquisition skill as spell mastery.
Interestingly Brian and I are on different sides of the RMU size rules argument. I found the rules cumbersome, awkward and terminally slow. They initally really applied mostly to Arms Law and I though I could just junk all of Arms Law and rewrite my existing combat tables to fit RMU, which I probably will do anyway. That was before I saw Creature Law and the normalised creatures. It is a tribute to RMU and all flavours of Rolemaster that it is so modular that something as central as these rules can be changed without breaking the system.
Brian: I don’t really use any of them now, but Companion I had a lot of material that could have been “core” or included in RM. Paladin being the most obvious. Arcane magic was ok, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to classify it as a realm. Battlerunes were very cool and we just rolled them into Open Essence at the time.
Peter: No surprise here but the RMC Combat Companion is my book I could not be without. I thnk it is one of the ‘lost’ books because of IP issues and mine is falling apart but I have scanned and OCRed much of it into word and the condensed combat tables I hand typed into Excel. What you get is a few professions if you use them, armour by the piece which I derived from HARP I believe, weapon katas and fighting styles which puts two weapon combo back into RMC and the jewel in the crown the condensed combat system. There is a sample below and you can see that you get the 10 armour types, criticals that are not split into Slash, Krush, Puncture but rather customised to the type of attack, so arrow criticals for bows, dagger criticals for short blades and the like. You get many weaons per page and the size modifications tucked into a corner. You can run entire combats without having to turn an page if the weapons are similar enough. The only drawback is that the same criticals come around again a little too often. That is why I have excel versions of these pages. There are only 18 attack pages of which 6 are frequently used. Those 6 I have rewritten the criticals keeping the effects the same in terms of hits, bleeding and stun etc., the location the same but just changing the prose descriptions. I started with two copies and used to swap between sets for each game session to keep the criticals varied but I now have a couple of pages with three versions after being inspired one evening. This book and the condensed combat system really triggered my appetite for simplifying RM as combats became so fast and exciting to run that it made everything else look slow by combarison!
Brian: One of my favorite is Uda Tyygk, in the Iron Wind. Hidden fortress, the Thyfuriak. Very cool. Reminds me of a toy I used to have: the mountain fortress from MAC (mobile action command)
Peter: For me it has to be the MERP campaign book Northern Mirkwood. This book has everything, the floor plans vary from the great halls of Erebor to towers and orc holds, every one of them I have reused time and again. The master military charts with every NPC, and class or adverary clearly detailed make off the cuff encounters dead easy and the amount of unique content to make the region really stand out as being different from any other woods or forest. This was also the first MERP campaign book I bought and with my only other experience of ‘modules’ being D&D ones, this book completely changed my concept of what a rpg suppliment could and should be.
Brian: My group has been playtesting “Priest-King of Shade” for 2 years now. There are 12 adventures that can be combined into a long adventure path that they are doing and are up to part VI. I went a bit off script and threw a Battle-Priest of Z’taar at them during a particularly tough fight they were having. The Priests are unpredictable—chaos agents really. The Priest attacked their enemies first but then saw one of the players as a “worthy opponent” and switched to attacking that player and the party. Ha! Perhaps not cunning but it was a bit of a shock to the players to deal with a Battle-Priest in full Beserker mode.
Peter: I was really pleased how I lured the party to the deserted, remote, haunted house, despite telling them that it was a remote, deserted, haunted house and then threw tons of undead at them. It was only when the they were actually confronted with the obvious ghost that they stopped trying to work out who was trying to scare them off. According to feedback there was no way that it could be a real haunted house as things are never as the GM says they are. So that could be cunning or it is one of those reverse, reverse, reverse psychology things. Where I told them the truth, so they wouldn’t believe me as I never tell them the truth, so by really telling them the truth I put them off the scent!
Brian: I’ve always liked Terry’s magic items. As a Warrior Monk there were very few magic items that I could use, so I really appreciated those. Two of my favorites are in Cloudlords of Tanara:
Fist of Agonar. A spiked gauntlet that destroys doors.
Jarn’s Shurikens. 2 shurikens that hold small red disks that explode as Firbolts 4x damage. The disk is spent but the shurikens return via Long Door.
Peter: My favourite ‘cool bit’ isn’t a thing, it is a monent. It is when you get a new RM book and it has new critical tables and you get to read though the really dangerous fatal wounds for the first time, normally trying not to laugh or smirk and the gory deaths.
Brian: I’ve always liked the Mystic base list “Hiding” and on it are two cool spells: 14th lvl “Merging” which is a great escape/hide spell and 13th lvl “Flattening” which makes a player 2 dimensions. How cool is that?
Peter: Mass Vibrations I, 13th level Essence Hand. Everyone in your field of vision needs to make an RR every round of fumble their weapon. It is absolutely brilliant and far better than any kind of blade turning. The first time I discovered this spell I was playing an invisible illusionist who cast this followed by a summoning spell that gave me a pair of tigers against a dozen guards. It was carnage and I don’t think any of them survived! Even the lower level spells are cool. In RM you rarely meet massed enemy so Vibrations I as a first level spell is a great defence once your caster reaches 4th or 5th level.
Brian: There are 3 things that are indispensable to my game: iPad which has everything in PDF for reference, tri-fold GM screen and my “noteboard”. www.noteboard.com. I’ve never tried any RM software—I guess I’m too old to learn new tricks.
Peter: I agree with the Tablet PC. I don’t have a GM’s screen but I have created a small PDF with just the few charts that I need for running a game that serves the same purpose. I tend to print the important specific rules that relate to bits of the adventures and insert them into my plot notes at that actual point so I don’t have to access any rulebooks during play.
I have tried Combat Minion for a single session but didn’t like it the added prep time setting up the encounters doesn’t suit my play style as I often have no idea how many foes I am going to throw at my players until part way through the session.
Incidentally here in the UK the BBC is supposed to be non-commercial and impartial and if they ever mention a brand name they have a habit of saying “Other brands of Tablet PC are availaible.” and I had an irresistable urge to add that in after Brian’s mention of the iPad!
Brian: “Talents”. Can’t stand any rules that are “one-offs” are turn into crutches that underpin the entire character.
Peter: The extended character background options from RoCoI particularly the Skill at Arms and Skill at Magic. These are prime examples of where a single (un)lucky dice roll can complerely change a character. There is no balancing factor and no relationship between the result of the dice roll and the initial character concept.
Brian: Feldaryn. My favorite NPC was “Feldaryn”, a crazy old man is tattered robes and a long beard. I’m pretty sure it was in a campaign I was running for Matt and his friends (matt, any recollections?). Feldaryn had “found” himself a flying boat (this was pre-SW) and picked up the group. Given his appearance and confident proclamations they all assumed he was a powerful mage or perhaps a god in disguise—the Dragonlance effect. In reality he was crazy, low level and being pursued for stealing the flying boat. The fun was seeing the players agree to almost anything Feldaryn suggested!
Peter: There was a high level Drow Sorcerer who the party caught completely by surprise along with his apprentice. His plans were to decieve the party for long enough to put his grand plan in place to destroy them but the party were having none of it. They chased him from pillar to post without a moments respite until he had to flee in a rather pitiful manner killing his own apprentice so that he could not give away the location of Sorcerer’s final hiding place. One day he will be back and he will have his revenge but unfortuneately he is having issues achieving his full potential.