Rolemaster Professions – The Bard

The Bard is one of the nicest semi spell user professions in Rolemaster. It has a nice combination of magic, stealth, combat and social skills to make them really useful in all situations. Obviously there is no one profession that can do it all without any restrictions or everyone would choose it and no one would play anything else. The bard profession is not like that, it is nicely balanced whilst at the same time capable.

A fantasy role playing Bard
Really cool looking bard although I prefer my bards armed with axes.

The D&D bard is often quoted as the Leader Profession and the Rolemaster bard also fits into that niche quite nicely. In fact leaving all game mechanics and rules aside the cultural role of the bard means that doors open to them at all levels of society and their access to ‘behind closed doors’ information is unparalelled. In fantasy culture bards are the bearers of news as well as entertainers. They are welcome in lordly halls but get to eat with the servants and so on. As a leader the bard has the social skills to inspire and motivate groups and instill morale.

So what makes the (Rolemaster) bard so good? The first element has to be their magic. The Bardic base spells fall into two camps, magic relating to songs and magic relating to knowledge. Their songs give them the equivelant of charms, sleep and fear type spells and as they progress in levels they can effect more targets and at greater ranges. Their knowledge based spells influence how they learn languages by doubling or more the rate that skills are learned for the same points cost. They can also magically assess mundane and magical items. The ability to learn skills more cheaply and to magically emulate ‘lore’ type skills gives the bard the option to devote more development points to other areas of character development.

Bards are not restricted to just their base lists though. They can also learn the 1st to 10th level open Mentalism lists. These include self healing, illusions, detections, invisibility type spells, a variety of defensive spells and even a bolt style attacking magic (shock bolt). The truely great thing about the realm of mentalism is that magic can be cast whilst wearing any armour all baring helmets.

So magically they are really good all rounders. The only thing they cannot really do is movement, no flying or teleporting. This great flexibility is tempered by the fact that spells are expensive to learn for bards so they have to pick what is important to them.

Skills-wise the bard the bard gets professional bonuses in just about everything except directed spells (spells such as shock bolt and lightening bolt) and body development (hitpoints). The bard only has one directed spell in their entire repetoire and that is only if they choose to learn the open list of Brilliance so this no real disadvantage.

The Bard’s primary skill costs are pretty generic with nothing too expensive but nothing being particularly cheap iether. The primary skills are things like weapons skills, spell lists, magical skills, climbing, swimming and so on. the core of what an adenturer would need to do. The Bard has about the most expensive magical skills of all the spell using professions but that is the balancing fact with having the best possible mix of spells and being able to use them in nearly full armour.

It is in the secondary skills that bards really start to shine! All of the social skills from acting and singing to public speaking and seduction are all coming in at just a single development point for the first rank and most secondary skills right across the board are only 2DPs for the first rank each level. Remember that higher level bards can use their magic to learn languages at upto five times the regular rate means that spending a single development point could get you two to five ranks in language.

All RPGs have some element of combat in them. The bard as an all rounder is never going to be a stand out warrior. They are somewhat restricted in that their first weapon skill is affordable but it all gets very expensive after that. If you are restricted to just a single weapon then that generally suggests spear, shortsword or hand axe as your weapons of choice. It really depends on the game and setting as to which one I would go for. In my opinion the spear is the best weapon in the game in terms of flexibility being similar to staff, club, polearms and the lance. It can also be thrown giving a ranged option. They are also a lowest common denminator weapon requiring very little metal manufacture so are widely available. If you are washed up on a beach you can find a big stick and use half your spear skill with it as a big club. If you are a swordsman you are unlikely to find one of them on he beach.

You cannot chop down a tree with a spear in a hurry. If your game is a bit more out in the wilderness then the hand axe comes into its own. It is a practical tool as well as a weapon. It can be thrown to give you a ranged attack and it is similar to short sword for when nothing but a sword will do. I you are in a hack and slash type game then you can learn it left and right handed and two weapon combo to give you two attacks a round. Bards can be pretty good at adrenal moves so combine Adr. Speed with a pair of axes and you are up to four attacks a round or two attacks with axe and shield.

The third option is the shortsword. Again it works well as a two weapon combo, it is throwable and of these weapons it is the most consealable. It is also similar to all the most common longer blades such as broad and long sword and smaller weapons such as daggers, dirks, sais and all the short axes.

All of these options give you a range of weapons you can turn your hand to in a pinch all using just the one weapon skill.

Armour-wise chain is the best option. You do not need much skill to get away with the lighter chain armours, the heavier ones give good protection and cost wise it is certainly affordable. I would probably get fully trained int he first fiew levels and then turn those development points over to more spell lists as soon as you are fully trained.

So there is the bard. They are the smooth talking all rounder and leader of men who can in theory at least do everything from hurling magical bolts, slay dragons and play the wise old sage, all in a single profession. That is not bad going.

Prepping for Atmosphere

I have one player who loves maps and mapping any and all dungeons and buildings the party enter. There is nothing inherently wrong with the party mapping. In fact the character has bought copper plates and a stylus exactly for mapping their route.

My issue is that mapping the parties progress kills the atmosphere in  the game. It can become almost mechanical, the party enters an area, everything stops while the player updates the map, play continues, rinse and repeat.

I am considering using preprinted map sheets with a black card overlay. The card will have a circular hole cut out to represent the light shed by a torch or lantern. It  the player then wants to sketch what  he sees then that is fine. I may need a couple of extra bits of paper to mask off bits that the top  page may reveal that the players don’t know but it all seems extremely easy to do. Part of the problem is, in my opinion that it is too  easy to fall into the trap  of describing interiors in a location by location way. It seems natural to describe somewhere right up to the closed door, knowing that the door will stop the parties progress and line of sight. Once they  have opened the door then they can see what lays beyond and react to it.

If on the other hand one started to treat both sides of the barrier as a single location what happens when the party approaches the door can be scripted in to  the adventure notes.

The same thing happenso of course if the GM knows the entire map and every location off by heart but I cannot retain that amount of information.

So what I  am starting to do is insert additional locations into the adventure modules with this overlap information incorporated into it. The first time I did this it occurred to me that my style of describing the location was different to TSR’s. So to make the thing more consistent I then rewrote all the location descriptions.

Now if you are writing descriptive text you may as well pour on the atmospherics at the same time. I have nearly finished updating  every location in  the next module the party are going to tackle and I seriously think it is much darker and atmospheric than the original which considering they are going to be investigating a tomb is just about right.

What struck me is that the original texts had very little mention of smell and sound. They would tell you how a room looked but little else unless it had a direct impact on the plot. No mention of dripping water, creaking timbers or the sounds of rats scurrying overhead. Likewise the frequent bodies found in rooms have obviously been recently given the once over with a monster sized bottle of fabreeze.

So this week I am  going  to have to set about redrawing all the maps to  a larger scale to  use at the gaming table.

The NPCs of Daggerdale

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My players have been working their way through the Doom of Daggerdale module. This was one of the things I have converted over to Rolemaster. Not only did I have to convert Hook Horrors and the Nightshade/Wood Wose creatures but there are three significant NPCs in Daggerdale. These are Randle Morn, Caldoran The Razor and Tren Hoemfor.

The first that the Players meet is Randle Morn the displaced Constable of Daggerfalls, the traditional ruler of the town and Dagerdale. According to the module Randle is a 7th level fighters/6th level thief. In my conversion I have made him a 10th level Rogue. This gives him the strength in combat as well as the breadth of skills. You can use the standard generic NPCs for him and just give him +5 Chain mail (AT14), +10 full shield (+35/+25), a +5 long sword and a +10 long bow. In my world these are all superior quality non-magical weapons. I chose to give him the leadership and public speaking skills required to inspire a band of 200 men to continue to fight a partisan war against the Black Network.

Tren Hoemfor is a D&D 7th level fighter. This translates into a Rolemaster 10th level fighter with Chain (AT13), a +10 broad sword and two interesting magic items.

The first is a Cloak of Displacement. I have made this a Daily Item that casts Displacement I once per day (5th level Guises, Illusionist Base). I made this decision because I did not want to introduce a magical item into the game that I would regret if it fell into the players hands!

The second item is a Ring of the Ram. This ring in D&D does 1, 2 or 3d6 damage in the form of a ramming attack depending on how many charges are used. My version is again a daily item embedded with Vacuum I (3rd level Gas Destruction, Sorcerer Base) three times a day this  delivers a single impact critical severity B. I thnk the damage it delivers is slightly less than the D&D version but it does not have a limited number of charges so on balance I think it is on a par.

The third and final NPC is Caldoran the Razor. I am not going to give you his complete stats but a general outline. In D&D he is a 6th level Mage. I have made him a 10th level human Archmage. The interesting thing about archmages is that they can pick their ten base lists from any profession and any realm. I this case I chose the Alchemist list Liquid Gas Skills that enables him to create potions. The eaty of this list is that it allows him to create potions. I have then given him a substantial stock of potions from his own spells (1st to 3rd level and those of his allies. What I have aimed for is to massively extend his pool of powerpoints and therefore how dangerous a foe he is without having to resort to giving him powerful magic items. Potions are inherently single use and in someways force players into making choices. If they use the potion now then it is gone or save it until they really need it. As it is they have no way of telling what any of these potions do without testing them the most basic way of holding your nose and swallowing it down.

I am a big fan of low level spells. I think there are some really cool powers in there that often get over looked by bigger and more powerful spells. Another option is of course you can give potions to somebody else and there is no skill involved in use it. In Rolemaster you need a certain skill to invoke a rune or scroll. Potions are just glug it down and hope for the best!

As it is Calderan is still alive and kicking and a danger to the PCs so I cannot go into much more detail. Once he is done for I will share what his stock of potions was and how he used them.

Favourite Monsters

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Every GM must have a favourite monster. I have played under GMs that loved Orcs and another that loved dragons. In the later’s case in any ‘benefit of the doubt’ call chances are the GM would side with the dragon. With dragons I think that is fine, they are meant to be the top of every food chain and you should take fighting one very seriously and relying on Luck is not a good plan.

A Kool Kobold

One of my favourites is the humble Kobold. I kind of like the concept of ‘monster’ and underdog both concepts are definitely present with these little chaps. Life is cheap when your No. Appearing is 3-300. (Actually it is 5-20, 3-300 is for their slightly tough Urd cousins who have 2-5 hitpoints.)

At the other end of the scale I quite like Pit Fiends. they add a certain je ne c’est quoi to a battle field as only a Lawful Evil Genius can. With one of those at the back it gives otherwise easy cannonfodder a bit of backbone and an excuse to out smart the players, they are geniuses afterall.

I don’t think I show bias towards my personal favourites afterall is it not as if you need to keep them in tip top shiney condition as I have as many of them as I want, as often as I want. It is not the same as having a favourite PC in which case every one is an endangered species and the last of its kind. If a horde of kobolds kill the party it does not enhance the game or add to the fun. Having an uber tough fighter crying for help and parrying for his life and then being rescued by the party healer; now that is fun and everyone lives to tell the tale and fight another day. If the fighter is less arogant and the healer feels a bit more involved in the game then that is cool i my opinion.

But what about you? Do you have favourite monsters? If so why?

Roleplaying Games Do Not Exist

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Roleplayers as people exist and roleplayers as gamers exist but roleplaying games do not really exist. What is in the rule books is a framework from which the Game Master can create a vision of his world, or bring another world to life.

There was a thread onthe ICE Forums this week about how many development points you as a GM give your players. Some gave more, some gave less and it really sort of stacked up along ruleset lines. RMSS/RMFRP generally gave more as that game has many more skills that the characters are expected to have. RM2 has many skills and so the GMs generally gave more and RMC GMs seemed to give the least but the game has the least skills. No shocks there really but what was interesting was that nearly every GM clearly had a difference of opinion of that was requird or what was the ‘norm’ and even what was possible but we were all broadly meant to be playing the same game and even if you split us into ruleset camps we still did not generally agree.

Another reason only see the rules as a framework is that I have spent nearly 6 months now working with another GM in trying to decide exactly what rules we want to apply from all the rulebooks and companions. We mostly agree but there are red lines that we have drawn because to cross them would break our personal world view(s). We are nearly half a year in to this and less than half way through the companions. We have been playing together since about 1984, you would not think that two people playing the same game would be so far apart.

All versions of Rolemaster that I have seen (I have never played or even read the rulebooks for RMSS/RMFRP or Rolemaster Express) have been very modular and very consistent in their approach to describing the characters world. This means that it is very easy to slot in an optional rule and have it work seamlessly with all the other rules. The companions have optional rules and options for the optional rules. Some options have four or more solutions to the proposed problem, all of them viable but some impact on complexity others on the power level of the game.

This modular approach lends itself to house rules because you know that the rules will work if you follow the style of the rules as written. I am not a fan of house rules and generally do not use them, I don’t see the need and in my opinion most cause more problems that they solve because they are normally one persons opinion and completely or relatively untested.

When I played DnD I can remember discounting great swathes of the rules (the table of all the different weapons vs armour classes and all the plusses and minuses never got used) and almost every month when we bought White Dwarf or Dragon magazine we would add in more spells, character classes or alternative rules. House ruling is not a Rolemaster problem is a natural occurance when you have highly creative and imaginative people trying to create worlds.

I would say there are as many versions of every roleplaying game as there are GMs running those games. All variations are valid and of equal worth and all are unique. DnD does not exist but there are a great many DnD derived games just as there are a great many Rolemaster variations out there.

Ironically I would have said that there are as many versions of the Fearun as there are GMs/DMs running that setting too. As GMs I don’t really think we can leave anything alone can we?

Who Am I? I’m 24601!

OK, So I am not Jean Valjean. I’m not even French. Here is a little story for you that got me thinking about NPCs in the world around the party and could be useful to DnD DMs moving over to Rolemaster.

I took up fencing with Sabre and Epee after the London 2012 Olympics. I started with Sabre but after six months or so I tried Epee and for me it was everything I was looking for in a sword fight.

Three months ago I took up horse riding again. I did it for a few years as a teenager but gave it up when I was about 14. They say that at that age boys either give up horse riding or turn super competitive. I obviously was one of the former not the latter.

Tomorrow I am going running, just for fitness. I swore I would only go running when I saw a happy jogger. They always look in pain to me but I am getting fatter by the week and need to do something as I am 47 in three weeks time and staying fit is not getting any easier.

Back in February I was going to a gaming weekend with a friend and I commented that with the fencing and new horseriding hobby, if I could find an archery club near me I could be a first level fighter by the time I am 50. My friend replied that I was probably higher level than that as a Computer Technician (a SpaceMaster profession).

He was probably right but what level am I and what level are the normal people in the world around the player characters?

In DnD most people are 0 level human, 1d6 hit points, AC 10 as I remember. Things are a litte different in Rolemaster. Rolemaster has a profession (class) called ‘No Profession’ and that is a sort of generic person. If you really needed to detail someone because they have become important to the story then unless they are one of the player character professions (or an evil variant) then the No Profession is where you would start.

But at what level? For most people that the party meet, who cares? You do not need to roll every waiter and barmaid the players meet nor every blacksmith or horse dealer. I would only consider creating NPCs that are going to have a direct impact on the players story and will have to make skill rolls or combat rolls and the like.

I normaly work on this schedule. People who are just living their normal lives whatever that may be with no significant threats, I give them one level for every five years beyond the age of 16. for people living a harder life or with regular existential threats then it is one level for every four years. This is where I would put your normal gate/town or wall guard and even farmers living on the very edge of civilisasation. For people who are actively going into dangerous situations on a daily basis such as caravan guards, sell swords or tyrants bodyguards then it is one level for every three years.

So here are some concrete examples.

A courtesan, early 20s, would be 2nd level with a couple of skill ranks in performing arts type skills such as dance or playing an instrument, social and political history, heraldry and etiquette. I imagine that would take up most of their development points but you may want to buy a single rank in dagger if it is that sort of world. The character would be useful to the party in helping them navigate the dangers of a political campaign and may have skills they lack.

A farmer, 56 years old, raising crops and live stock. Here we have an 8th level NPC with skills in various ‘Lores’, herb lore, flora lore (so he knows what to plant where and when), fauna lore (so he knows what to feed each animal and what predators are local), animal handling, loading, driving, some animal healing. Some performing arts, a bit of dance and a musical instrument, useful for attracting a wife and a few ranks in weapon skills. There probably have been a few instances of banditry in the area, joining a posse or driving off or hunting wolves and that sort of thing. He may even have served in a peasant levy at some time. I doubt he has a sword but spears are good all round weapons, easy to make and do not need much metal, bows are likewise and both are good for hunting.

The guys stood at the city gates or patrolling the walls could vary. In a war torn area a guard in his early thirties could be 5th level in a peaceful region just 3rd. If the same guard had been in the rank and file of an army in a protracted war then he could be as high as 6th level.

In these three examples I would make the courtesan and the farmer ‘No Profession’ but the guards would be fighters. Character Law has a table of all the core professions with typical armour types, and skills and even the typical number of spell lists and to what level.

So what am I? Well I’m nearly 47, living a peaceful not particularly stressful or dangerous life so by my own reckoning I would be a 7th level No Profession or IT professional (in RM parlance that would probably make me a rogue or thief depending on your opinion of IT guys)

Creating a Rolemaster Golem (or “In just 7 days I could make you a man”)

I am still trying to read as much Realms Lore as possible and one of the things that struck me was that Golems are a fairly common magical defence for the spell casters of Faerun but there is no mechanism for their creation in Rolemaster (that I know of).

Under the ‘good old days’ of Rolemaster 2nd Edition (RM2) there should have been a whole companion dedicated to Golems and at least a profession of Golem maker.

What I like about Rolemaster Classic (RMC) is that it does not come with that huge canon of companions and expansions. Just three pages from Spell Law are about all you need to introduce a coherent set of spells needed to introduce Golems into your world.

Firstly lets have a look at a Golem. A flesh golem is a 5th level creature. The description is pretty much what you would expect if you are familiar with the D&D creature, a sort of Frankenstein’s monster inbued with a spirit. I don’t see this as an inherently evil act, it is not particularly pleasant and not to be done on the kitchen table but I do not want to restrict the construction of flesh golems to the evil magician profession.

Here is how I want to approach it. I am assuming that creating the flesh golem is not that different from creating an undead. Rather than having to have a whole dead body the body may be constructed from different parts but the body needs to exist and is not created by the spell. The Golem is 5th level and a Type III undead is also 5th level. To create a Type III undead requires an 11th level spell (Necromancy, Evil Clearic Base List). I think this is just about the right level and 11th level is a bit special. Hybrid and Semi spell users cannot cast 11th or higher level spells unless they have chosen the list as one of their base lists. This will keep Golems on the rare side and not something that everyone seems to do. Below is the description for the Create Undead I spell, Create Undead III just allows upto type III udead to be created.

-5. Create Undead I – Given a body that has been dead less than 1 week, the caster can turn the body into a Class I Undead. The Undead will attempt to attack the closest living being (if uncontrolled), but can take no other activity other than moving to the being and attacking. If controlled, the Undead will do anything (within its capabilities) that the caster wills. The Undead can be Dispelled, Repelled, or just smashed into little pieces.

So to create my spell I can use this as a model so we get

-11th lvl, Create Flesh Golem, Area varies, Duration P, Range 10′, Type F.

Given a suitable body the caster can turn the body into a Flesh Golem. The Golem will attempt to attack the closest living being (if uncontrolled), but can take no other activity other than moving to the being and attacking. If controlled, the Golem will do anything within its capabilities.

So what list does this belong on? I could create a ‘Golem Ways’, or Golem Mastery list as I am not going to stop at just flesh golems and that is a real possibility but the key here is that the golem is a body inbued with a spirit and one of the cornerstone spell lists for nearly all essence spell users is Spirit Mastery. So I am going to put this on the spirit mastery list.

We still have an outstanding problem though. Our golem is uncontrolled. We need a way of controllling it. On the spirit mastery spell list, the stock 11th level spell is Quest

-11. Quest – Target is given one task; failure results in a penalty determined by the GM (task must be within capabilities of target). If the target ignores the quest, they will suffer the same effects as for failure.

This is perfect! As soon as the Golem is created you then have to give it a quest, the quest being its purpose. This means that the purpose must be defined at the time of creation. This will stop a player from creating an army of golems to do act as general purpose soldiers. The failure condition I would rule will release the spirit from the golem effectively killing it.

The three pages of spell law are pages 52-54, Spell Research. Our spell right now does not exist. For a spell caster to learn it they will need to do the research. To research an 11th level spell takes 8 months 1 week. (33 weeks) assuming 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week. (in RMU it will only take 18 weeks as a different formula is used for spell research durations.) As a rule of thumb that is not something that most PCs are going to do but they could if it was that important. The spell could be taught to another spell caster who knew Spirit Mastery already in 8 weeks. Now that is short enough to fit into most campaigns. I have seen characters with wounds that took longer to heal than that. This even is beginning to sound like a reason to go on an adventure to find someone who has already researched this sort of magic and so on.

What  have described is the process to give this spell to essence users but there is no reason why this does not appear on the necromancy list or at a stretch on the Life Mastery list (Cleric Base). On that list 12th level is the first time a Cleric can actually raise the dead so binding a soul into a flesh body is still viable if the clerics god would allow that. The 11th level Sorcerer Soul Destruction list acutally has a spell that can transfer part of a soul into an organic object. If they are already moving souls around this could then fit in here as well. These other professions may lack the Quest part of the process but then they just need to research that if there is no suitable spell available.

Flesh Golems are all very well but you wouldn’t want to take one home to meet your parents.

A Stone Golem is 10th level and a Type IV undead is 10th level. I think we have a match there. I would put it on the Earth Law list for the Magician but equally it fits on Solid Manipulation. The matching Create Undead spell is 15th level so I would put Create Stone Golem at 15th level. It would still need the 11th level Quest spell to control it. Iron Golems are 15th level and the matching undead spell is 25th level.

The question is, is it worth creating an entire list of for creating constructs? There are all sorts of things that could be created this way from stone gargoyles, living statues and animated suits of armour. You could dot the spells around on suitable lists such as animate object spells on the Essence Hand or Telekinesis lists or bring them all together.

It is my preference, and nothing but preference, to dot them around the other lists. If I put them all together and a player learns that list they are going to want to use it, logically enough. Whilst golems are no more powerful than undead social convention prevents them [the undead] from being used excessively. Stone Golems on the other hand could be placed around the formal gardens of a house with a purpose of protecting the inhabitants in great number. Suits of armour could line every hallway ready to leap into action and so on.

If you are familiar with Faerun then you will know that golems are use a lot as protectors of magicians towers, bank vaults and the like. Now I have the mechanism for their creation and control.

Forgotten Realms Realmslore

This week I have been mainly studying Forgotten Realms realmslore. I must admit I am quite impressed.

I have one face to face group that meet three times a year for a long weekend of gaming and this summer I am going to start a pbp game set in and around Waterdeep and the North. The idea is to move the face to face group up into the north so that they are adventuring in the same region.

What I wanted to do was to have all the PCs in roughly the same region so that the time I devote to developing my game gets the most return on the effort. If I have the groups too spread out I have to do double the work for no extra gain.

The first port of call was the campaign setting books. Shadowdale is well detailed in the prime campaign setting and there was also a dedicated book on Waterdeep or City of Splendors as it is known, having read them I was not entirely sure what to read next. There are so many books it was not obvious which were the best references. I joined the Candlekeep forum as that looked like a pretty good place to ask questions and sure enough they came up trumps.

The first book they recommended that I read was the Volo’s guide and at the end of the Preface by Elminster was this post script.

P.S. FR1 Waterdeep and the North
remains the definitive guide to features
of Waterdeep, augmented by the City
System and Ruins of Undermountain
boxed sets, the Knight of the Living Dead
gamebook, and the module FRE3 Waterdeep.
Those desiring to explore alleys Volo
mentions would do well to consult where
the alleys meet with the sewers, on page
28 of Waterdeep and the North, if they
wish to avoid (or find, I suppose) danger.

So kindly enough right at the beginning of the first book is a reading list. As it happens I have most of the books listed and I have got stuck in. The members at Candlekeep also pointed me to the Icewind Dale series of books which are less than £7 on Amazon for the entire series. I think I may push my players up through the Dales via Icewind Dale before dropping them into the North.

The Icewind Dale Trilogy
The Icewind Dale Trilogy

As I have said before, I think, the party are made up of a Sorcerer, Cleric, Warrior Mage, Seer and only one fighter class. Seeing as the barbarian tribes living in the north are very distrustful of magic they should be in for a fine old time!

What all this brings home is what a rich setting Faerun is and what a wealth of resources are available for both the GM and the players. It certainly will not hurt the game if the players read these novels and if it helps give them more of a feel for where their characters are in the world then that has to be a good thing.

From a GM’s point of view converting stats from AD&D to Rolemaster is a doddle for monsters, traps and magic items and treasures. NPCs can take a while longer but that is only because Rolemaster is so much more detailed in its character creation. So what if you have to spend some time building your world. I have never heard of a GM who complained about he time they spend bringing their game to life.

 

Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths

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I remember when I first saw Spell Law, the rolemaster magic rule book, I was not overly impressed. When dealing with magic my background was largely D&D with the hundreds of PHB spells and probably an equal number of add on spells from Dragon magazine and from the backs of modules and such. Spell Law and the Rolemaster magic system takes a bit of getting used to but if you leave your preconceptions at the door it is an amazing system.

The first danger facing a new gamemaster is to make learning magic too easy. There are several optional rules about learning spell lists and entirely alternative learning methods availabel to the GM in the core rules and companions. Every one of them makes magic easier to learn. I have tried most of them over the years and have come back full circle to using the strictest rules and these give the players the most fun. There was an awful lot of moaning from my players when I did impose the strict rule set but that was because they had become spoiled by the overly generous rules they had been playing under. It doesn’t help that in our gaming weekends we have spent half the weekend playing 20th level characters created under the generous rules and half playing 1st level characters under the strict set. That is one hell of a culture shock.

At first glance it appears that Spell Law gives distinct sets of spells with each ‘set’ or list going from 1st to 20th and then 25th, 30th and 50th. The spell caster can cast all the spells of his level or lower from all the sets they know. Lists have to be learned in blocks of 1-10, 11-20th and then the three highest level spells are learned as up to 25th, up to 30th and up to 50th.

The first thing to realise that that basic model is not always true. Some character classes, ‘professions’ in RM, have specific lists that work differently. The two that spring to mind are healers who have a transference list that is a list of just one spell and illusionists who have their prime illusion lists completely interconnected so that they would all have to be learned before they can effectively create illusions, more on this below.

What you can do within rolemaster’s magic system is layer spells. Many spells work on the next spell you cast for example to increase the duration of a spell you would cast and Extension spell followed by the spell you want to extend. Runes can be written to specially prepared paper the same way and a door could be warded or a standing stone inscribed with powerful symbol. Other lists need to have their spells used together, different protective spells will only protect against one type of magic and so you will have to layer different protective spells.

There are rules on which spells ‘stack’ and which don’t. The rule being that spells with the same name do not stack. Using Extension as an example Extension II is a 3rd level spell and doubles the duration of a spell, Extension III is a 7th level spell and triples the duration. Despite the numbering these are the same spell so you could not cast both and try and get six times the duration on your spell. Certain spells do not stack simply because they are contradictory. There is a spell called Aura that makes the caster appear incredibly powerful and adds to the caster’s defence. There is another spell that makes the cast hazy and indistinct. It also adds to the casters defence. You cannot use Aura and Blur at the same time. Apart from a few exceptions like this you can stack pretty much anything and use that option to create so many more magical effect. A mid to high level magic user of about 10th level can litterally have more than 100 spells to choose from. Although many spells are very specific and of limited day to day use having them to hand for that one time they are just the right tool for the job is invaluable.

If you are new to Rolemaster then it is certainly worth reading all the spell lists available to a profession and seeing which lists work together before planning which lists to learn.

Now Illusionists in Rolemaster are NOTHING like a D&D illusionist! Firstly, you cannot disbelieve and illusion. There is no saving throw, Resistance Roll in Rolemaster parlance, as the illusion is actually created. What I mean is that a simple light mirage spell does actually create the image, if you stick your hand through it then you will know it isn’t a real elephant or whatever but the image is really theree. If you create an sound mirage of a claxon to raise the alarm then there really will be a big loud noise, the device that made it may not exist but the noise does. Illusionists have seperate lists for dealing with light, sound and touch/feel etc. They then have a master list called Greater Illusions but you can only use the ‘senses’ in your greater illusions if you know the corresponding spell for that sense. What the illusions (stationary) and phantasms (mobile) do is combine the different mirage spells into coherent multisensory illusions. If the illusionist know the touch/feel mirage then you can actually touch the illusion, pick it up and carry it off if you wanted or on the other hand it could fall on you and do real damage. For the duration of the spell an illusion is on the verge of being a real thing under the mental control of the illusionist. I would not recommend an illusionist as a first character in Rolemasters until you are really au fait with the magic system.

I have writen about this before but there are so many more types of magic using profession in Rolemaster that you will have to leave a lot of your D&D preconeptions behind. The sheer power of many spells simply is not apparent from reading the description in the book, you have to see it in action. There is a spell that make herbs more effective. Healing herbs play a big part in most rolemaster games. A typical common healing herb is Rewk, you brew it up and drink it and it heals 2-20 hits. Most mid to high level characters have 130-150 hits for comparison purposes. Rewk is both common and cheap to buy but is often over looked by characters because they would have to carry so much of it because of the disparity of healing to total hits. As an animist goes up levels they can double and triple the effectiveness of herbs and by 15th level they can times that by 10. Now you common or garden Rewk is healing 20-200hits. Rewk costs 9sp, less than one gold piece a dose. Yavethalion is a herb that heals 5-50 and costs 45gp, Gefnul heals 100 hits and costs 90gp. A starting character starts the game with 3gp typically (I seem to remember about 150gp was common in D&D as starting money) so you can see that that simple spell can mean the difference between life and death or at the very least empty money bags!

Spell Law I believe contains about 2000 spells split between three realms of power and those can be stacked and combined to make a lot of variations to fit your characters vision but the spell lists as presented only account for one part of the magic system within Spell Law.

Next time I will give you a primer on magical research.

Faerun Campaign Update

Today I am traveling to meet up with my players for the second weekend of my Rolemaster / Faerun campaign.

For the first session I only had three of the four players so the party looked like a Sorceress, Cleric and Warrior Mage. This time those three will be joined by the fourth player character and an NPC being a Paladin and a Mystic, The mystic is “Little Miss Defensive” from previous posts. I finally made up my mind on Tuesday night as to which version I was going to use and the mystic won out in the end.

All in all this is a very magical group of characters that is pretty much what I wanted. Every realm is represented to some degree and there is a little bit of cross over which is good. In my world magic users of all persuasions tend to have less spell lists each to force players into deciding what is really important to them. If you look at the realms of magic in this party you have essence/channeling (sorceress), channeling (cleric), arms/essence (warrior mage), arms/channeling (paladin) and essence/mentalism (mystic). Everyone is unique but at the same time they can share and learn from one another.

I have seen a few people on twitter talk about tweeting their game ‘live’. I am in two minds about this. Would it be distracting to be constantly picking up your phone to tweet? I think it will not do any harm to try it at least once so it is my intention to tweet the party progress tonight and if it seems OK then tomorrow as well. We will see how that works out.

I have given the stats for a few monsters that are common to Faerun but new to Rolemaster over the past three months. Once the party have met them, and that should happen this weekend all being well, I will share a few more creatures with you.

If you are a D&D DM considering trying Rolemaster then let me know any creatures you know and love and I will make sure you have the stats if they are not in any of the official books. The conversion process is pretty simple and not particularly time-consuming.

In the meantime there is a link to my twitter account to the left and look out for some tweets from me after about 6pm.