Rolemaster, Rolemasterblog and the Future!

I was reading James recent blog over at Grognardia, and it made me think about the current state of this blog and what topics to write about in the future. While James has written more posts (orders of magnitude more), I’m currently sitting at 426 posts over the last 10 years. That’s not bad considering I’ve had lots of downtime and gaps in my output.

Also like James, it’s harder for me to find new material to discuss and/or I realize I’ve already written on the topic years ago. I always thought it was odd when someone would tell me they couldn’t remember how old they were (it tracks now that I’m in my 50’s), and it can also be difficult to remember what I blogged about five, eight or even ten years ago! I think I’ve mined some interesting angles with Rolemaster and Shadow World, but I’m not sure where else I can go with this. Inspiration will occur, but I suspect at a much slower rate.

So where does that leave us? RMU is finally out (mostly), Terry has passed leaving Shadow World indeterminate, TTRPG’s are as popular as they have ever been, and there are numerous channels to explore gaming topics. What conclusions can we draw from these basic observations:

  1. The environment is right to promote Rolemaster/RMU. The system is still one of the few “complex” systems for gamers looking for more verisimilitude. Just like in the early 80’s, players converted to Rolemaster for greater realism or grittiness. Those conditions still exist today–most games embrace simplicity and “rule lite’ structures; there will always be a need for complexity for maturing gamers. It’s a cycle. We need a blogger to cover RMU rules and issues.
  2. Shadow World is still a viable setting for Rolemaster and with a bit of tweeking, RMU. I’ll continue to focus on SW as my main blogging topic, and continue to produce material for that setting. I’m currently focusing on using AI tools to leverage that effort.
  3. In general we need more writers with other viewpoints, ideas and material to contribute to this blog. If you prefer long form over short tweets or discord give blogging a try. There isn’t much RM blogging out there, so it might be better to consolidate output into the Rolemasterblog?
  4. Overall we need to keep the Rolemaster flame lit. RMU has drawn new users and brought old users back. When they search the web they need to find a home, content or a community to engage. Basically there are 3 choices: Rolemaster Forums, Rolemasterblog and RM discord servers.

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge engagement when there is a lack of comments–so let me ask directly. What do you like to read about? Is there material or topics that we haven’t touched upon? Is there something we should focus on more? What material would you find more engaging or comfortable commenting or participating in?

Getting Back To It.

Now that most everyone I know is vaccinated and the world is going back to normal I am able to restart my Shadow World campaign. This is less of a continuous adventure and more of a ongoing testing campaign, but my players expect, and I think welcome, random rule changes that occur almost every session (“Inter-office Rule Memos). In the past, that has meant having all of their spell lists replaced with new ones, losing skills that I deleted from my core rules, abrupt level changes and other pivots that they have learned to expect and provide feedback.

I have them running through Chapter 4 & 5 of Legends of Shadow World a few more times and then they are heading to the city of Nontataku to test out my new module. They have been to the city before, but just passed through on their way to Shade. It’s been a long time since they have done real urban adventuring and I’m looking forward to the change in environment and to stretch my DMing skills with more in-game social interactions and political intrigue. The Alliance is in town and making a play for the city!

A few years ago, I decided to focus more on blogging about content rather than rules, but I have 3 fairly major changes that I’m implementing and have been adopted in my SWARM rules. I’m going to see how it goes, and will probably blog more about them as things develop.

  1. Stats as Skills. I started working on this back in 2017, and had the players make stat checks on a few regular items: feats of strength, recall and correlation and poison/disease RRs. Over the subsequent couple of years, I’ve expanded the use of stats in the game and happy with the result. I’ve been reading some Grognardia blogs about the use of stats in D&D that coincides with some RM conversations about eliminating stats and just use bonuses. I am in the camp of increasing the use and utility of stats rather than eliminating them.
  2. Stat “Nerf”. There was some comments about the utility of low stats over on the D&D blogs: for example, a low intelligence may make the player immune to charm spells or ignore Illusions. I played around with some ideas for these types of benefits for all of the RM stats, but I admit I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. However this led me to the conclusion that my player’s average stats in general are too high. Most have every stat above 75! So I’m trying something new: players are given 600 points to assign to the 10 stats. They still roll for Potential stats, but that’s starts them slightly above average and makes them think long and hard about stat levels. Given the increase use of the stat score for action checks and the added utility of historic “dump” skills like memory, the players really think about things. Even with a 30 or 40 stat score, they aren’t getting negative modifiers, but it does change the stat as skill roll outcomes.
  3. Magical Languages. For those that have followed the perpetually evolving Project BASiL know that I allow casters access to all of the spell “realms”. However, within some of the realms are different classes of spells: for example, Essence has Minor, Lesser and Greater “Paths”. This somewhat mimics the base list structure of RM and creates cost obstacles so players can’t learn the highest powered lists of each Realm without concerted DP allocation. To accentuate that further, I created qualifying skills, pre-requisites, that needed to be developed in tandem with the higher Paths. In the end I found this cumbersome and didn’t like to add skills that only had one purpose and no real in-game functionality. To simplify I decided to expand the magical language list and assign them to various spell lists. This had the added benefit of working well! In general, Essence lists now have a required magical language needed to cast the spells. Some lists can be cast with different languages, and some languages can add bonuses or other benefits to casting. Like rare spell lists, the casters are motivated to track down and learn other magical languages!

I’m looking forward to finalizing my Shadow World ruleset, but a part of me feels like the endless tinkering with the rule toolbox is a feature and not a distraction.

Rise of the Old Guard.


For those that follow various RPG blogs, you are probably familiar with Grognardia, written and curated by James Maliszewski. James ended the blog back in 2012 and it looked like he was done with the project. Perhaps he ran out of creative energy, or there was no topic left unturned.

Many of his older posts are worth perusing, but as it turns out, James is back and restarted the blog after an 8 year hiatus! Since the restart he has been prolific with 309 posts in 2020 alone! We managed 1 or 2 months of almost hitting 1 post a day here at the Rolemasterblog, and that was with 3 or more contributors!

James brings a true OSR viewpoint to his writing and he has in depth knowledge of the early Golden Age of roleplaying. He’s posted several articles on MERP and has some familiarity with Rolemaster even though he’s not a fan of the system. Welcome back James!