Is Rolemaster Rules Heavy?

Rolemaster Logo

I saw a survey today that listed Rolemaster as an example of a ‘Rules Heavy’ system. If you bought ALL of RMC that would be Character Law, Arms Law, Spell Law, Creatures & Treasures and Companion 1 you would have the entire published system and the entier page count runs to about 800 pages. That is roughly the size of just the three core DnD 5e PHB, DMG and Monster Manual.

Page count is not the best way of measuring the weight of the rules. If we were to look at spells every spell in Rolemaster works in one of just a few ways. Either you roll on an attack table (eg Fireball), the spell effect is dependent on the severity of the targets failed resistance roll (eg Sudden Light) or the spell is not variable and has a baked in effect (eg Projected Light). If we look at DnD you get every spell with its own bespoke rules and formulae such as Magic Missile that fires of a variable number of projectiles depending on the level of the caster but never misses. As a magic system Rolemaster is a lot lighter than DnD 5e. Incidentally DnD 5e was quoted as a medium weight system in the survey above!

Combat in DnD vs Rolemaster is a hard one to compare because I have never known anyone apply the rules correctly in either system. DnD is often protrayed as Roll to hit, roll your damage and move on. That sounds really easy and fast but then you add in initiative rolls, and weapon vs armour modifications and different ‘to hit’ tables for different professions/classes and a few hundred classes and things are not as simple if you apply the rules as written. In rolemaster the big bug bear is exhaustion points. I have never even read the rules in full, I have never played them and do not know anyone who has played them. If you ignore exhaustion then Rolemaster looks more complicated with books of tables, one page for each weapon and books worth of critical tables but it still comes down to roll to hit and roll damage (our beloved criticals). rolemaster has more pages but actually less rules. It does have a hell of a lot more flavour than DnD combat. It is aledgedly more dangerous but that is down to how many first level magic users you have tried to play in DnD I suppose.

The point I am trying to make I suppose is that what makes one system ‘rules light’, I think my RM variant is very rules light, one rules medium and another rules heavy is I think the eye of the beholder. the person who created the survey thinks or has heard that Rolemaster is rules heavy and therefore puts it as an example of a rules heavy system perpetuating the myth.

I think ICE need to address that perception and one way to do that is to adopt the Adventure Path methodology and literally put a ready to play pa together that new players can pick up and start playing in the same evening. Of course with a new generation of RM about to be released this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Rolemaster Classic

Last time I wrote about how we are attacking all the optional rules. My fellow GM has some of the oldest rule books in the known world, I think, and I convinced him that seeing that his ipad is basically welded to his hand anyway why not go for the pdf rules. He conceded and now is the proud owner of Rolemaster Classic.

I have been using the pdf Rolemaster Classic for a while now but most of my other books are on paper or home scanned versions.Just so we are both singing from the same hymn sheet I bought the Rolemaster Classic Arms Law, Spell Law and Creatures and Treasures this week.

In my mind Rolemaster (RM2) and Rolemaster Classic are pretty much the same game but I was shocked to see that the date on the RMC Spell Law was 2011! I always think of Rolemaster as a quality game from the 80s not something that new.

I have been reading my nice new rule books and I have to say I am even more impressed than I thought I would be. I loved the new and updated rules section in Arms Law but Spell Law is by far my favourite updated rulebook.

There is only one fly in the ointment and that is Creatures and Treasures. A lot of my time is spent converting creatures or monsters over from AD&D as they are native to Faerun. The rules for this have disappeared from Creatures and Treasures. I still have my old books so it is not a show stopper but it ould have been nice to be able to just have the four books and say that is it, everything I need to run my game.

On a side note I bought a cheap android tablet to accompany my new rules from Amazon and it cost me just £70. It is no ipad but it will only b used for displaying pdf rules and running combat minion. I have run the minion freebie version on my phone so I am pretty certain that the tablet will be up to the job. All my NPCs are in pdf format all ready as these are created using the RCU and printed using cutePDF writer. and the adventures are all in PDF format too. I think the next game session could be entirely run from the tablet. Up until now it has all been books, files, a laptop and copious print outs. I feel like in the last four months I have been ushered into the 21st century and have lost me preconceptions of pbp gaming and now I have bought my first tablet (I could never see the point of them before this).