Rise of the Old Guard.

GROGNARDIA

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!

Thee Tales of the Tarot Deck.

Tale 1. One of the more curious aspects of The Court of Ardor is the “Deck of Ardan”, a tarot-like magical set of cards. At first glance, the deck simply acts as an “org chart” for the mysterious Court and assigns members to various roles based on a playing deck. Additionally, the deck holds other powers, two of which are detailed. The first is the ability to communicate with other members of the Court featured in the deck. This can be through voice, or if chosen a visual window akin to modern “Facetime”. The second detailed power was enhanced “Channeling”–per the channeling skill in Rolemaster. Since no one I know has ever used the Channeling skill (as described in RM2), it was interesting but ultimately unhelpful. (I recently asked Terry about the origins of the Channeling skill, but that’s another blog!)

Tale 2. The Court of Ardor was not the first appearance of a Tarot style deck in fantasy that replaced the cards with characters in the particular story. It has been decades since I had read Roger Zelazny’s “Nine Princes in Amber” but I vaguely recalled the same style device being used. The book was published in 1970, so it clearly predated Rolemaster and I’m not the first that noted the similarity. Age of Ravens blog noted the similarity in 2011.

http://ageofravens.blogspot.com/2011/02/rpg-supplements-i-like-court-of-ardor.html

So was this just a coincidence or an example of convergent creativity in early fantasy? When I asked Terry, he provided this short explanation:

“Yes the Ardan Tarot was inspired by Zelazny’s books. More details I am afraid I don’t recall after all these years!”

So there we have an answer, but answers to questions I had about additional powers of the deck or further ideas on their use were lost in the mists of time!

Tale 3. 29 years after Zelazny’s book and 16 years after The Court of Ardor, a Tarot plot device appeared in another fantasy series. One that had it’s birth in fantasy gaming. Gardens of the Moon is the first Book of the Malazan and featured the Deck of Dragons. This deck of cards was both a divination tool and depicted the various members of a pantheons court. The Deck of Dragons plays a major role in the early Malazan books, but less so as the books go on and other systems replace the deck. I’d enjoy asking Steven or Cameron (the authors) if they too were inspired by Zelazny’s book; the Malazan series was driven primarily by their early roleplaying games.

Perhaps I’ll read Nine Princes in Amber again, but I’m still intrigued by the use of Tarot cards in Court of Ardor and Malazan. Zelazny might have been the progenitor of an idea that is now shared DNA in two other fantasy settings.

(Updated 1/17/21) Rolemaster Profession Review: The Astrologer

While the Astrologer has not been included in RMu, it does hold an interesting place in the minds of Rolemaster players. What was the point of the Astrologer? Is the profession even a useful PC? Why are the base lists so sparse? I decided to ask Terry if he could remember anything about the origins of the Astrologer from the early gaming days in Charlottesville. It’s been 40 years, but he did have this to say:

It was included partly for the spell-user realm symmetry (we needed a hybrid mentalist/Channeling?) I never played one; I think they are better suited as NPCs.

That’s interesting and re-affirms my thinking that some of the original RM professions were probably never gamed extensively. (Not dis-similar to the new RMu Delver). Nonetheless, the Astrologer is a profession in RM and I’ve had a few thoughts about it recently:

  1. Astrology implies a game setting that supports the concept. Sure, the Astrology spells are mostly replicated in other spell lists, but the conceit itself relies upon some systems around the sun, moon, stars or “heavenly” bodies. Does that work in all settings? Probably not. Does it work in Shadow World. Yes!
  2. Many of the Astrology spells are divination based. That can create challenges for the GM in terms of predicting future events. The more vague the information (for instance through “Dreams”) the easier, but specific info about the future may require the GM to funnel the gameplay to meet a desired, predicted outcome.
  3. The Astrology base lists need work. I addressed some of that in my blog below.

Conceptually what is an Astrologer? For me, the Profession invokes ancient magic, star-cults, sun based worship or Zoroastrian magic rather than “horoscopic” mumbo jumbo. The Zorastrians were seen as a priesthood and called Magus or Magi, so it was a combination of religion and magic. In Rolemaster, Astrologers are Channeling/Mentalism hybrids, but you could make the argument for Channeling/Essence given their “star-fire” powers.

The Astrologer was a prominent feature in early MERP products and shown in color coded city maps using red fill with a question mark for Seer/Astrologer. Clearly, Peter & Co. saw a need for Diviners in their early campaigns even if those professions were left out of the MERP ruleset. As an NPC, the Profession adds an air of mystery and exoticism and would be a useful resource on occasion. As PC, it’s not clear that the Astrologer would be that effective.

In other “Profession Review” blogs I offer up more specific spell lists and remedies that I think would fix or focus a profession. With the Astrologer, I have some ideas but the verdict is still out. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Combine the Seer & Astrologer Profession. They both have a divination aspect and consolidating the base spells lists would tighten up the spell abilities.
  2. Tie the spell lists into some type of astrological mechanism. For instance, why not have some spell lists tied to the Sun that can only be used from Dawn to Dusk, others that can only be used at night under starlight and a list that can only be used when the Moon is full. (see next item).
  3. I haven’t reviewed the Moon Mage in a while, but Astrology includes the “Sun, Moon and Stars”. Why not roll the useful and usable MM spell lists into a fleshed out Astrologer. Moon Mage is a goofy name anyway.
  4. In conjunction with #2 & #3, an Astrologer could be an interesting Profession using Shadow World. With 2 prominent moons (Orhan and Charon) that are the home of the Gods, and other planets in the Solar System, there is a basis for building the Profession around orbital mechanics. I’ve already experimented with Essaence cycles and lunar orbits in Chapter 3. It might be cool to develop unique spell lists for different moons, planets and the sun that only work during portions of their orbit in relation to Kulthea.
  5. Currently, I use Astrologers as a subset of the Phaon clergy. They act as Priest-Astronomers and justified their use of Sun-Fire spells. I think using Astrologers as Priests of Phaon in Shadow World, or Priests of a “Sun God” in other settings makes sense.

So just a few thoughts on the Astrologer. Has anybody played one as a PC?

Legends of Shadow World Chapters 1-5

I had a handful of people looking for the final chapter of my Legends of Shadow World series. If you are not familiar this was an experiment with a few purposes:

  1. Write a tournament style module for RM that could be used as a 1-shot adventure or for use at conventions.
  2. Test the viability of high level (50th lvl) roleplaying with Rolemaster.
  3. Give the players a chance to play some notable characters featured in Shadow World books and be involved in a “major” event in Kulthean history.

Some of the chapters include stat blocks, but I refrained from adding them in the last chapters. I think now, I want to wait for the RMU ruleset to be finalized and see if ICE has any interest in me fleshing it out as a RMU/SW product.

With that said, if anyone has any interest in adding a map, floorplan, battle map, illustration or art to this, let me know. I think a finished product with artwork, printable character sheets, maps and added narrative could easily hit 50 pages. From a tourney standpoint, if the players can move quickly and avoid lengthy battles then the entire series can be played in 4-6 hours.

Finally, thanks for the people that sent me feedback and thoughts. You can message me via the RM Forums (if they go back up) or email me at bhportland at yahoo. If you get a chance to play it, have any thoughts, ideas or feedback I’m happy to hear them.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2021.

Remote playing with ERA

Greetings! While the forums are down, Peter was kind enough to allow the blog to serve as a place to offer insights into ERA.

It would be interesting to know, from those who are continuing their gaming sessions remotely, how are you doing it?

For those who use are wondering, ERA can be used for remote sessions, even though it’s not specifically designed for it. Managing this is not trivial, but unless your Internet provider blocks certain applications, it can be done.

The only thing you must do is allow ERA to be seen from outside your local network. When you use the Adventuring module and your players use the Character status module, all are accessing the same port in the local network, normally provided by a router or the Internet provider modem. What you need to do is “open” that port to the outside world, by telling your router or modem to do a “port forwarding”.

There is a comprehensive guide for a large number of devices at https://portforward.com/router.htm .

In case your Internet provider requires you to forward only ports in a specific range (ERA uses 7777 by default), you can configure that by adding the line ServerPort = NUMBER in your ERA/RMC/ERA-RMC-Settings.conf or ERA/RMFRP/ERA-RMFRP-Settings.conf.

Let us know in the comments if you tried this or other approaches to remote play and how did it go.

You can also use the comments section to suggest content on ERA you would like to see published here.

For specific troubleshooting you can always write to the support account: erasupport.voriigkye@recursor.net .

Stay safe!

ROLEMASTER PROFESSION REVIEW: THOUGHTS ON THE MYSTIC.

I have to say that I was surprised at the lack of love for the Mystic in Hurin’s and Peter’s recent posts. Why? Because Mystics ROCK!!! I’m not sure I ever played one, I started GMing almost exclusively early on, but I’ve always been intrigued by the profession. Like the Astrologer, Seer and Alchemist, I thought the Mystic was a new profession concept in the early 80’s that upended the “boring” D&D classes I was accustomed to.

So what is the Mystic? Unless Terry or another original ICE developer weights in, we’ll never know exactly what they had in mind 40 years ago–but to me it’s clear that the Mystic is a pure spell caster Assassin/Spy. I’m not sure Peter or Hurin are picking up on that–and if you only look at the spells it might be tougher to see the “Mystic DNA”. First, take a look at the skill costs:

  1. Ok armor DP costs. That’s typical for Mentalists in general, but it implies a more combat oriented profession.
  2. Stalk & Hide: 2. That’s the lowest skill cost for any pure caster, and implies the stealthy nature of the class.
  3. Perception: 2. Again, this is only beaten by the Seer and matches the Illusionist.
  4. Ambush: 4. That’s not low, but it’s by far the lowest for a pure caster. The Mystic ambushes!!

Just based on those skill costs alone, we already have the basis for a stealthy, perceptive character whose primary attack is ambushing.

Base Spells. So there is not much appreciation for the Mystic spell lists, but let’s take a closer look:

Confusing Ways. This is a fantastic spell list with some great utility. The first 5 spells: Distraction, Confusion, Blur Vision, Fear and Stumble are all combat effective and still fall into the character concept. Most of the other level spells are as useful, although the lack of spells lvl 16-19 could be easily corrected.

Hiding. Again, this is another solid list with some cool spells: 3rd lvl Shadow, 7th lvl Screen, 10th lvl Shadow Mystic and 13th lvl Flattening. The combination of Hiding and Confusing Ways spells with some combat effectiveness makes the Mystic and formidable character class!

Mystical Change. The “piece de resistanance” of the Mystics spell lists, this allows the caster to change their appearance or impersonate other creatures or persons.

For me, those three lists and the skill costs are a great character template. I would also argue that the Mystic’s low level spells are almost all useful–which isn’t necessarily the case for other pure spells users (I’m thinking of you “Mr. Boil Water”!).

I think the confusion with the Mystic is with the other 3 spells: Liquid, Solid and Gas Alteration. Those spells seem off-brand, or perhaps another mentalist type given how core the skill costs and the other lists feel.

Personally, I would jettison the 3 alteration spells and maybe drop a weapon skill down to 4 and make a few small tweaks to some other skills. I’ve never been a proponent of a mandatory 6 base lists: a profession needs just the right amount of base lists, and often it feels like some base lists are just there to meet that arbitrary requirement.

A slight bump to combat abilities and those three lists makes for a great Assassin archetype. The Mystic is a great profession and one that deserves more respect!!!

Rolemaster Profession Review: Thoughts on the Warrior Mage.

Hurin wanted Rolemasterblog to tackle the Warrior Mage next, so I put aside my blog on the Mystic and spent some time reviewing and thinking about the Warrior Mage. I can’t recall any of my players choosing a Warrior Mage, but I know that the Warrior Mage is VERY popular among players and controversial as well. Hurin is doing a rebuild of WM spell lists and is a proponent in general, so I thought I would take an opposing view of the profession!

One of the first issues for me, is that the Warrior Mage doesn’t feel like a “Profession” like other RM semi-spell users. Instead it’s really a multi-class, A Fighter-MU that combines the 2 most popular PC aspects: combat and elemental attack spells. Not only does it merge the best of 2 classes, but it fully embraces the Fly, Sleep, Charm, Fireball cornerstones of the fantasy Magic-User.

What’s in a name? Most RM Professions carry an implied conceptual design with their name–a topic we visit with these blog posts. Most people have a clear concept of a character when they hear words like: Bard, Ranger or Paladin. These Profession names evoke class tropes, literary references and a skill and power framework. We don’t call a Ranger a “Animist/Fighter” or a Paladin a “Cleric/Fighter” even if those descriptions are technically accurate. Profession names carry enough referential information that we can even argue over skill cost minutia. Of course some of these Professions imply a setting or specific social construct but the Warrior Mage does none of that. What do you think of when you hear Warrior Mage? Probably that it’s a great character because there is both fighting ability and useful spells–but what’s the context? It’s merely a Chimera–a combination of two primary ABILITIES, but without any conceptual framework. While we may disagree on small details of varying Professions, we immediately get the concept of an “Astrologer”, a “Beastmaster”, a “Dervish” or a “Moonmage”. There is connotation. I just don’t get that with a Warrior Mage. To me, it feels like a work-around and a class designed by a player not a GM. A RM Magician can already allocate DPs to learn combat skills–the Warrior Mage just accelerates and amplifies that outside of the game balance. The Warrior Mage spells feel cherry picked for power and utility–in some ways they feel BETTER than the Base lists of the pure Magician spell caster!

Spell lists picked and designed by a player. There are several versions of a Warrior Mage, but let’s stick to the original in RMCOII. In this version, the Warrior Mage receives 3 Base lists and a suggestion for a 4th: Minds Touch, Elemental Ways and Highriding. The 4th suggestion is Body Renewal, a Monk base list. If a player could individual choose spells and put them into their own lists, I’m not sure you could do better than these. I’m not making a argument for the inherent power of the spell lists–I realize that there is an argument that they are “overpowered”. I just don’t like the incredible bias of these lists.

Minds Touch. Basically combine Spirit Ways with Telekinesis and you get the 4 incredible spell abilities: Charm, Sleep, Telekinesis and Telepathy. All great for in-game use!

Elemental Ways. Why bother with a handful of Elemental Spell lists organized by the Element, when you can just bundle the ALL the best spells of a Magician into a single Base list! Fireball, IceBall, Fire Bolts, Ice Bolts, Water Bolts, Shock Bolt at 2nd level and Lightning Bolt by 12th.

Highriding. My favorite! Flying, Longdoor, a Tensers Floating Disc and even Teleport. Wow!!!

The final suggested list is Body Renewal–a Self Healing list that rounds out the Warrior Mage as virtually a self-sufficient offensive machine. While the WM base lists don’t have spells from 16-20 why bother? Most games seem to run at player levels less than 15th, allowing the WM to put together a basket of great spells by 10th.

Profession as a Trope. So I want to return to the Warrior Mage as a template beyond a Fighter-Magic User or semi spell user/Essence. I’m not opposed to a simple Essence semi-user, but that doesn’t really fit into the RM system does it? Is there a better set of spell lists that aren’t: a teenager’s masturbatory idea of a PC; imbue the Profession with a concept or connotation like other Professions?

I’m going to think about this further. Since I can already build a Magician that spends Development points on a combat skills (yes, at a high cost), I want to see a Warrior Mage concept that is unique or inspires roleplaying ideas. Of course, I always think of Professions in relation to Shadow World–in that setting there are some ideas that could make great templates for a WM: Cloudlords, Xiosans or the Guarla of the Raven Queen. Any of those might work as an organization of Semi-Essence professions, albiet with specific organizational spell lists rather than the RMC II Base. I’m interested in seeing what Hurin comes up with! What are your thoughts?

Spell Law Deconstruction: Building Spell Lists to 50th lvl.

Image result for spell law

Now that I’m posting up some more spell lists–Mentalism primarily, I’m tracking comments and feedback on the forums and here at RMBlog. The number one issue I see is the desire for spell list reductionism, maybe build 10 spells per “list” and allow for creative scalability similar to or identical to HARP.

That is a compelling thought, but after writing a ton of spell lists I wanted to put my own thoughts in order.

  1. Distillation. Rebuilding classic RM spell lists typically requires some trimming. Many spells within a list are redundant: not just the spells that progress as I, II, III etc, but different named spells that do similar things. Distilling the essence of a list can really reduce the total number of spells which makes a scalable spell system very appealing!
  2. Spell scope. I’m not a fan of kitchen sink style spell lists, but do see a fundamental difference between the realms. Essence should be very tightly focused around a key aspect, Channeling should allow for much more variability based on the particular god and I see Mentalism lists following a shared mental mechanism. Using these basic rules provides different ways to build lists in different realms.
  3. Compatibility. A major motivation to maintain the 1-50th spell lists is basic compatibility with RM and Shadow World.
  4. Built in scalability. Many of my lists are built around 3-6 spells, that progress from I-V and maybe include a mass effect. If each spell repeats every 5 levels that takes up a chunk of the list, but also gives a repetitive appearance that seem suitable for scaling. However, the spell versions don’t just scale progressively, but change in target size, AoE, Range and other aspects that provide “more bang for the buck”. General scaling assumes increased power point cost/expansion of range, area, damage etc. So from an efficiency standpoint, higher versions of the spells in BASiL provide a better impact/PP than just linear scaling. “Spell II” isn’t just 2x better than “Spell I”, it can be 3x better or have expanded efficacy or powers as well.
  5. Opportunity and tactical cost. By having built in scaling, players can use higher or lower level spells based on the target, PP consumption and risk/reward calculations. Of course, that’s also one argument for Scaling spells, but the PP usage will be much different per #4 above.
  6. Level assignment. One of the more difficult aspects of designing a spell list is deciding what level to make a spell. Part of me wants to calculate an estimated “power cost”, while other times I’m thinking of utility and game balance. For instance, the big three: Charm, Fly and Invisibility can be very unbalancing to the game, but perhaps shouldn’t be based on “power needed” or some other arbitrary assessment. Some lists just can’t be distilled into 10 spells with scaling options. Some spells need to be higher level to reflect their real power and also make them unavailable to lower level players.
  7. Vertical versus horizontal acquisition. RM (and probably RMU) is build around horizontal model of spell acquisition. Generally players will know more spell lists than overall spell levels. For instance, a 5th lvl caster may have access to 5-10 lists but can only effectively cast to 5th level without risk of failure. In BASiL, it’s the opposite. I use a levelless system so players generally know a few spell lists to higher level. That gives them more powerful, niche abilities. It’s just the way I like my game to run–hard specialization versus the generalization of RAW.
  8. Keystone spells. I still like cool spells that can be found at 10th, 20th and certainly 50th level. I try to add something unique or interesting at these levels for players to look forward too, or to give the list a “bump”!

I guess sticking with RM I wanted to improve on the originally 35+ year old Spell Law and incorporate spell ideas and powers introduced since then. But if I were to start over, I would take a hard look at a HARP scalable system. Or maybe just use HARP rules?

Many of you also build your own spell lists. Do you have build guidelines, mechanistic philosophies or other design criteria that help you in the process?

Spell Law Deconstruction: Base Lists

RM Spellcaster Professions are defined by 2 game design factors: skill costs and base list. Skill costs are only significant for levels 1-8th (due to declining rank bonuses and professional rank bonsues), while Base Lists have since taken on a disproportionate share of Profession identity and ability.

I have two issues with Base Lists: the “forced-learned” aspect and the “all-profession” trend that started with the Rolemaster Companions. (further explanations forthcoming..)

First lets consider the “force-learned” angle of Base Lists. It’s argued that Professions, and their associated skill costs, model aptitudes of learning. While I don’t particular buy that argument, I at least understand it. But how does one’s aptitudes apply to spell lists? Isn’t any education/learning dictated by what’s available to learn? Whether that’s through books, tutors, mentorship, institutions or guilds, education (skills) should be driven by availability and access. So yes, I can see that a character may have an aptitude for spell casting in general, and even maybe an aptitude for a specific spell realm, but I can’t get my head around the idea that by merely selecting a Profession then mandates a specific set of 6 spells lists they are inclined to learn. Of course the larger argument is that game design requires that a Profession template drives skills and spells, and in return skills and spells reinforce the template. A virtuous loop.

My second issue with Base lists is the “all-profession” trend that I feel has crept into the design process. What do I mean by that? It feels that new Base list builds are driven by the desire to balance all aspects of the character–regardless of traditional non/pure/semi trade-offs. In other words, many newer spellcasters have a mixture of offense, defense and utility spells that make the Profession independent of group balance-they basically have no “flaws” or shortcomings! Starting in RMC I, this idea has been wholly adopted without a second thought. What are some examples:

  • The inclusion of a “Self-Healing” spell list. What’s better than not having to rely on a Healer, Cleric or Lay Healer!
  • The addition of a elemental spell list with major attack spells. Everyone wants at least one directed spell or AoE elemental spell.
  • Use of spell lists and spells that just give significant bonuses to skills or actions. Instantaneous spells that give +25 to the next melee attack? Very nice.
  • “Potpourri” spell lists that are a grab bag of the most useful or effective spells in category spell lists. Why bother with 2, 3, or even 4 Open or Closed lists when all the best spells are distilled into a single Base list!

I think there are many reasons for this:

  1. “Power Creep”. Many new classes were designed to improve upon original RM professions that were deemed too weak or game ineffective.
  2. Blank slots. If you have older spell lists with lots of empty slots it makes sense to fill them in. Making new spells is NOT that easy–so it’s a quick solution to just drop in spells that replace core skills OR spell abilities that flesh out the profession.
  3. “Balance”. For some, each Profession should be internally balanced: have a mixture of skills, abilities, combat effectiveness and defensive capabilities that make them balanced.

Rolemaster already allows Professions to build non-core abilities, at a cost, through the skill system. My concern is that there is an easier path to just build Base lists that replicate expensive skills or abilities without the associated costs or skill ranks.

In the end, a lot will come down to the GM’s perceptions on “balance”, but when reviewing new Profession base lists let’s ask ourselves if the Base Lists are supporting the Profession theme, filling in the traditional weaknesses of a given class or just making an “uber class”.

Druids in Shadow World.

The recent discussions on Druids here on the blog seemed a relatively easy assignment. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to Druids and generally argued for a more distinctive Druid by making them either a semi-spell user or even an Essence based profession. For me the Druid was just a new name on a predictable template already covered by Clerics, Animists and Rangers.

However, several comments and some googling made me start thinking about Druids quite a lot…

druid, druid religion
An arch-druid in his judicial habit.

Who were the Druids?

There is not a lot of first-hand knowledge of the Druids, but it’s generally believed they were: “philosophers, teachers, judges, the repository of communal wisdoms about the natural world and the traditions of the people, and the mediators between humans and the gods.” So, in some respects this sounds a lot like a Cleric or Priest, and in RM terms, a Channeler. But there are other descriptions of Druids that evoke a more mysterious and perhaps even sinister aspect. Then, while reading this description,

Druids, like numerous cultures both prehistoric and modern, were fascinated by the movements of stars and other celestial bodies. This implies that they were still using Neolithic monuments such as Stonehenge to track different astronomical alignments.

I was struck by a thought. While the Druid profession was missing in the original RM, the Astrologer was not. The Astrologer is an odd profession–I certainly thought it was cool when I first was introduced to RM, but the concept seems curiously unfinished. First, I think star-based spell lists are a very setting specific idea and the the lists themselves were incomplete with very few actual spells on each list. Assuming some fixes to the Astrologer lists, a great Druid concept would consolidate the Druid base with the Astrologer base lists. That would make the Druid interesting and unique while still retaining some the cool factor that the Astrologer promised. In this scenario I see possible Druid Base Lists as:

  1. “Far Voice” But a rewritten combination of Astrologer “Far Voice”, “Way of the Voice” & “Starsense”
  2. “Visions” A combination of Astrologers “Time Bridge” and “Holy Visions”
  3. “Starlight”. Original Astrologer but needs some fixing.
  4. “Druidstaff”. Either the original RMC I version, Hurin’s version or my BASiL list “Talisman”.
  5. “Natures Forms”. Original Druid list.
  6. “Stone Mastery”. Original Druid list.
  7. “Weather Mastery” type list as an alternate.

These six Base lists make a Druid very distinct from other Professions, especially the Animist and Ranger, by dropping the Animal and Plant control spells. To me this still feels like a “naturalist” spell user but in a more raw and visceral way. There is a nature and elemental angle to the class with “Starlight” and “Stone Mastery” and a touch of a Seer with “Visions”. Plus the elemental spells and the Druidstaff gives the Druid combat and offensive ability. “Far Voice” allows the individual Druids to communicate across vast spaces with each other–providing them a network of information.

I was pretty satisfied with this new Druid concept and would have left it alone…but I kept thinking about Druids and Shadow World. Shadow World has an organization that aligns quite well with a Druidic concept: The Earthwardens. In SW canon, the Earthwardens helped heal and rebuild the shattered planet. They built great earthworks, megalithic constructions, circles, henges, and passages, while nurturing civilization back from the brink. This is a familiar tale–not unlike legendary figures in our own history: Hermes, Thoth, Quetzalcóatl, and other “bringers of civilization” that were steeped in hermetic traditions.

While it’s not implicitly stated or clarified, the Earthwardens were using “proto-magic”; early Essaence before it was divided into the individual realms. The Earthwardens built structures on Essaence Foci–basically “Earthnodes” and “Leylines” often associated with Druidic tradition. While the Earthwardens esssentially disappeared during the Interregnum, it’s conceivable that their knowledge was passed down through a secret tradition and organization: The Druids.

So putting it all together we have an organization/profession that utilizes “proto-magic” and “Earthnodes” and is the repository of ancient traditions and wisdom. To me, that sounds a lot like what many people would think of for a fantasy Druid archetype. What types of spell powers are proto-magic? Luckily, I don’t have to write a bunch of new spells–just adopt the Arcane Magic lists as Druid base lists! In fact, Rolemaster Companion I has every thing we need: earthnodes, arcane magic and Druids! The base lists would be:

  1. Bladerunes. A great utility spell list that gives the Druid weapon enchanting ability and replaces the list “Druidstaff”.
  2. Earthbloods Ways. Obviously, this is easy to convert to Shadow World’s versions: Essence Flows and Essence Foci.
  3. Entity Mastery. I would make some changes and eliminate the homoculous spells, but I like the idea of a Druid commanding Golems and Elementals.
  4. Ethereal Mastery. Not sure about this one, but I like the concept of Astral Projection for Druids.
  5. Mana Fires. Feels very Allanon’ish and Druids should be “Wielders of the Secret Flame”.
  6. Shapechanging Ways. Gives the Druid the connection to Flora and Fauna.

The Arcane lists in RMC I are right on point for Druid spells and work well as inherited knowledge of the Earthwardens. With these lists, Druids tie into SW history and make a kick-ass profession with unique powers.

So what do you think? Druid/Astrologer or Druid/Arcane? I like them both, but Druid/Arcane fits my SW campaign. You can read my amended history of the Earthwardens in this file (inspired by page 5 of Rolemaster Companion I)