The way our gaming group is set up is that we are a group of five that meet regularly and when we meet we normally play two games, both Rolemaster. Up until recently that has been one Shadow World and one Faerun/Forgotten Realms.
When we next get together to play; the Shadow World game should come to an end as we are about to take on the ultimate bad guy and either save the world or die trying with no other options on the cards.
What this means is that we need a new game and it is someone else’s turn to GM. As it happens the new GM has not game mastered Rolemaster for many years (in fact his rule books are so old his spell law is printed in a hand written style font in blue ink, what was going on with that?). What we are doing is taking the opportunity to go through ever single companion and every single optional rule and skill and between us trying to unify exactly what options we are using.
One of the nicest features of all the Rolemaster Companions after Companion IV is that they contain a couple of pages of tick lists with all the optional rules and how important that option is, whether it is considered a core rule now, is it highly recommended, does it add a lot of complexity to the game and so on. As two separate GMs we can complete the tick lists apart, see what is the same and then look at where we diverge and discuss those particular rules.
I think this is a brilliant concept of not only identifying every rule and where to find it but also how important the game designers felt each rule was. I am a bit of a miserable git at times and think that every optional rule I introduce has to add something substantial to the game, to pay its way so to speak.
The framework we create in the coming months will probably be our default game now for the next ten years unless I can convince them all to do a Rolemaster Unified Beta II play test.
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.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you but this is going to smack some one up really badly when it unwinds!
In the Monster Manual we had Treants, in MERP they were Ents and Active Trees. If you are just coming to Rolemaster then Creatures & Treasures (Page 51) gives you three varieties to play with, the Awakened Tree, Slowroots and Treeherds being 5th, 10th and 20th level respectively.
Your Awakened Tree is the the classic horror moving dark forest that the innocent fool wanders into before disappearing never to be seen again while everyone in the audience is thinking “Why do they always go into the forest in the middle of the night all alone when people are disappearing?” (If you know what I mean.)
Your Slowroots and Treeherds are the more ‘goodly’ variants and the Rolemaster equivalents of Tolkien Ents as seen in the Lord of the Rings.
I am pretty sure the tree in the photo above is completely natural and the twisting just a turn of fate (groan!) and that I didn’t catch it about the beat the hell out of me. If that is true then how would a party of adventurers ever be able to tell when they walk into an ambush of this kind?
As a setting Faerûn can be a bit of a marmite setting. The diehard Gygax followers have never accepted it. Greyhawk adherents never needed it and it seems that with every new edition of D&D they feel the need to reinvent it. So why bother with Rolemaster and Faerûn?
I will not deny that Faerûn is not perfect. The original (grey box) edition barely sketched out the world as a setting for half a dozen modules and we were kind of teased into it by Elminster articles in Dragon magazine. After then there were so many seismic shifts that it is hard to keep track of it, gods dying, Mongolian hordes and volcanic eruptions not withstanding. Another criticism leveled at the Forgotten Realms setting is the über powerfull NPCs such as Elminster and Drizzt Do’Urden.
I, like many other roleplayers, cut my teeth in the D&D world, Greyhawk in my case, but then moved on to other games and other worlds. Last year I started to plan a new campaign after not GMing for a few years and I offered my players the option of a D&D game just for old times sake and I was surprised at the negative reaction. Despite that the D&D game had moved on generations since we last played no one was interested. We have always been dedicated Rolemaster players and that is what they wanted.
Setting a rolemaster game in Faerûn is pretty easy. Creatures and Treasures (I, II and III) cover 90% of all the creatures you will ever need. There are very simple rules included in C&T I to convert any that are not there over to Rolemaster and you are 50% of the way there. The other 50% is the NPCs.
There are numerous excel based spreadsheet type character sheets to help speed up character creation and my favourite piece of software (Rolemaster Charactder Utility) makes creating a middle to high level character the an hours work. This is where you can decide if you want and all powerful Elminster or not.
If you have a party of experienced D&D players then having a go at Rolemaster, even with a fairly simple adventure will be an eye opener (in a good way I hope)!
I am a RM2/RMC (Rolemaster 2nd Edition and Rolemaster Classic) player but there are other flavours available including a freebie 3000L_HarpLite (High Adventure RolePlaying) which has everything you need to get playing.
In my Monster Snobbery post I mentioned a creature that is unique to the Forgotten Realms setting. This is the Moray Rat, a vicious variation of the normal rat that is the staple monster killing diet of many low-level characters.
What makes the Moray unusual is that it has nasty backward angled teeth that mean that once it has latched on to its prey it cannot let go or be shaken off. It will hang on to its prey until it eventually bleeds out.
Game mechanics-wise treat the rats as standard rats but if the rat delivers a critical that does at least 1 point of bleeding damage per round then the rat is attached. It will no longer attack but it just thrashs around worrying at the wound. I would give the victim or helper +50OB to attack an attached rat but I leave it up to the GM to decide what should happen if you try to hit a rat attached to your own leg and miss.
There is of course the option of the Moray Giant Rat but that is your own choice.
Morays tend to be found in much smaller numbers than typical rats due to the fact that their natural internal squabbles tend to lead to more fatalities which keeps numbers down. They are perfectly suited to living in burrows, pipes and crevices where prey may wander in as opposed to living in large packs and scavenging.
I have created a Drow fighter using the current Beta version of RMU Character Law. I have tried to stick as closely to the previous Drow warrior I used for comparing the four elven races so as to be directly comparable.
To boil down a character to the absolute minimum I have a little comparison table for you.
The RMU character is 2nd level and the RM2 character is 1st level but if you take into consideration that an RM2 character goes through Apprenticeship and Adolescence and before becoming Level 1 and starting play both characters have two levels worth of development points and a single lot of stat gain rolls.
So the RMU character has slightly higher OB, perception, #hits and Stalk & Hide skill but the RM2 character has a higher OB. To be honest the differences are negligible.
If you look in more detail at the character sheet then you will see that we have lost the blind fighting skill, Iai Strike and the tumbling skills. Those skills do not exist in RMU (yet) and the Tumbling Evade works slightly differently. What the character does get is a much wider education, a greater range of combat skills including more weapons and unarmed combat and I said when I created the original character that I wanted to buy Poison Lore but couldn’t. The RMU character has Poison Lore (2 ranks).
What this has shown me is that although I quite liked the stripped down skills lists, that demand will almost certainly that they be reinstated. All the mechanics are in place for how blind fighting would work (it would be a Combat Expertise:Blind Fighting, the cost would be 1/2, no stat bonus and it would reduce the penalty for fighting whilst blind). Iai strike would be identical and it would reduce the penalty for drawing a weapon in the same round as your attack. It is all there ready to roll but that just means that so is all the skill bloat. It may not be quite as bad. Mechanical:Traps seems to serve as Build Traps, Set Trap and Disarm Trap and that has to be an improvement. I never liked having to separate out Build and Set as two skills.
Just so you can go over them here are the two character sheets. The RMU one is a bit rough(!)
Just to clarify a little bit of shorthand I have used. After a skill it may say something like RC1 or C1122. That means that the first skill rank came from his racial background and the second from his culture the third from his 1st level DPs. In the second example he has one rank from culture and bought two ranks at each of level 1 and level 2.
You have just got to love those Drow. They are the very model of political correctness and inclusivity, in fact they will make a slave of almost anyone!
Well actually that is not entirely true, they blame surface elves for almost everything (as do I) and the only good elf is a dead elf in their eyes. You see even Drow have standards!
To be more specific you should expect to find Quaggoths (more of them another time), Orcs, Half-orcs, Boogins (half Quaggoth, half Orc), goblins, bugbears, dwarves (one of the Drow Slavers all time favourites), gnomes and just about anything else that can see in the dark.
I was going to give you everything you need to know about Quaggoths and Boogins this time but two things have happened, firstly I have had a really irritating cough and cold this week which has slightly cramped my style and I have decided to throw myself into Rolemaster Unified (RMU). I am only just reading the new Character Law right now and I have just read the bit about creating your own races. Wouldn’t it be really cool to not just tell you about Quaggoths and Boogins but to actually create the race in RMU for you. Well I thought so. So the long and the short of it is that I will just give you a brief pen portrait this time but in a future post I will give all the stats and numbers.
So down to business. The Quaggoth are a large hairy beasts who prefer great swords or huge clubs in battle and stand about 11′ tall as adults. They are of relatively low intelligence but most importantly they have a natural affinity to spiders of all sizes. Seeing as the Drow worship the spider goddess Lloth you can see the attraction here I hope. The Drow do like to keep Quaggoths around to train giant and huge spiders, a task they can do on long shifts as guard to stop them getting bored. You may as well kill two birds with one stone if you have the opportunity wouldn’t you say? The Quaggoth do make a ver good drow slave!
A boogin is a half Quaggoth, half Orc. One would assume the Father was the orc but I wouldn’t put money on it. Boogin are generally physically smaller but proportionally more intelligent and make better overseers of Quaggoth guards. They also retain the affinity with spiders. which makes them favoured by Drow. To be honest a Drow would never lower themselves to speak directly to a Quaggoth but a low-born Drow may value the spider services enough to speak to a Boogin or at least to an orc that knows a Boogin.
There is one more aspect of these two races that I want to keep back until I can give you the full stats and numbers but in my opinion these guys are the perfect monster to throw at a first level party and next time you will see why!
I decided on Friday night that is is kind of senseless to keep on plugging away at RM2 and RMC when although it is probably the second best roleplaying game every written and the best FRGP it is after all a very old system. Rolemaster Unified is the latest incarnation of Rolemaster and seeing as the guys who make Rolemaster make no money any more from RM2 but are working their socks off to make RMU as good as it could possibly be it seems churlish to ignore all their good work and stick to what I know.
Part of problem with releasing a new version of a popular game will always be inertia:
Why should I pay out money to buy a new copy of a rulebook I already own, know and love.
Why should I start to learn a whole lot of new rules just to carry on playing a game I already own, know and love.
Why bother changing rules when it will not make me a better GM or player but it will throw up a gamut or short comings in the rule books that I have already addressed in the rule system that I own, know and love…
You get the idea.
The answer of course is that there is very little new material for RM2/RMC and there will be even less in the future. House rules that you have put in place to make your game unique just makes it incompatible with other GMs games but a unified solution will solve that. If RMU succeeds then we will get a whole bunch of new players and GMs in the community and that will help us all out with ideas and new materials etc.
I am only just starting to read through Character Law now. What I have decided is that I am going to continue to write for RM2/RMC as that is what I am playing but I will also create everything in RMU as well and share it. This way I get more and more familiar with creating characters and adventures in the new system without having to learn on the job with a bunch of players chomping at the bit trying to run an adventure.
So in the future you will start to see RMU material here as well as the good old trusty RM2.
I confess I was sceptical when I started playing pbp games as I have said before here Getting back into Spacemaster. I must now say I am really enjoying it.
After the character creation process I actually started roleplaying 10 days ago and during that time there have been 56 posts back and forth so that is five or six a day. I imagine that would be more if we were in the same timezone but I am kind of glad now that I am 7hrs displaced. I have a very addictive personality and I could see this becoming a real draw.
The most striking thing about pbp roleplaying is that the NPCs are so much better and realistic than I am used to. Now this could just be down to the hardwork of the GM but I actually think it is more a factor of the game format. In traditional roleplaying games almost everything is verbal with maybe a few player handouts. No one really wants to be having habitual lengthy conversations between two NPCs. I am certainly guilty of saying:
“<insert name here> thanks the barmaid and brings the drinks over to your table.”
The pbp ‘norm’ seems to be to relay the entire conversation with the description of the body language. That minor interaction can then convey more about the world and culture in which you are living. I don’t think there is the same pressure to move the game on and progress the adventure because the written responses are more considered and do not have to be off the cuff. I know I cannot do accents, almost everyone in the world seems to come from the west country or the Indian subcontinent with almost nowhere in between.
So far so good, the plot is unfolding before the character and threat of imminent death looms large with is just what you like to see in your PCs future.