RPGaDay2018 Day 20: Which Game Mechanic Inspires Your Play The Most?

It has to be the Roll d100 and add something then prey for an Open Ended.

That is the basic core mechanic of RM in all its flavours and it is just so flexible that it can be applied to just about every situation, skilled or not and has that little bit of excitement about the open ended roll.

I really try and avoid D100 rolls that are not OE as they seem a bit flat to me, I think the only real use for them is stats and criticals and I like point buy stats. It is the magic 66 result that adds the same sort of excitement to the critical roll.

So it is the simplicity of the Rolemaster core mechanic that I like the most and it is also the one that is chartless/table-less and the one we use the most.

RPGaDay2018 Day 19: What music enhances your game?

Easy answer today: None!

I am possibly the most un-musical person you will ever come across. I own virtually no music and what I do own was, with one exception, bought for me by people who don’t really know me. The one exception has a funny story attached but that comes later. I can only assume that I don’t hear music the same way that other people hear it. For me music is simply noise and has no more merit than someone trying to talk over the noise of a hair dryer or shouting over the sound of road works outside.

So it is funny story time.

So I was on the train coming back from a gaming weekend when the train pulls in to Plymouth (of pilgrim fathers fame). The four seats opposite me are then filled by four clinically obese ladies, tattooed and dressed like teenagers. They are rather drunk and still drinking. They are also extremely loud. They had been to see the Chippendales and were were variously expounding on what they would do to any or all poor Cheppendale if they got them alone in a room.

My ipod is mainly filled with BBC Radio4 comedy and this was insufficient to block out the horror assaulting my ears. I turned to my phone and Google Play and found Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was a free ‘album’ of the week. So I used Pink Floyd to drown out the auditory hell that was my railway carriage. I can testify that Pink Floyd use way too may really quiet and long intros to songs! I really wish I had bought something like Never Mind the Bollocks, it probably would have been a better choice.

RPGaDay2018 Day 18: What art inspires your game?

No one is perfect and one area where I am certainly ‘weak’ is my appreciation of the arts. The arts is a pretty big subject to squish into a single label but I can graduate things into stuff I appreciate that which I don’t.

I am going to junk the whole ‘what is art debate’ because I want to but I am also going to completely contradict myself in a minute and I am fully aware of the contradiction.

So the art that I appreciate is what I consider ‘extremely clever’ art. It is often technically difficult or exists to demonstrate a point. Esher’s optical illusions would fit this description, Jean Tinguely’s mechanical sculptures are another example. When I say appreciate it what I mean is I look at it and think ‘oh that is clever’ and move on. There is no desire to own it or want to create something like it myself or even a desire to have the skills or talent to create something like it myself.

Somethings I think employs art and artists but is not art. The division comes when it is of a purely commercial nature. Cinema is an example. Some films are art and exist for arts sake or the artist was trying to examine the human condition. I accept that is art, been there and didn’t like it, not going back.

Hollywood blockbusting movies are not art but do employ a lot of artists and that is work I can appreciate and that does inspire my games. I am a magpie of ideas and like set ups. I constantly see scenes that I wonder what PCs would do in that situation given that there is no script. I then set about constructing a story that will bring that scene into the game. I am not talking about railroading players or necessarily climatic scenes. Lots of the scenes that appeal are often throw away scenes and if they happen then great but if they don’t it is no loss. Some work well and some certainly don’t. There was a scene in Indian Jones where they were in small mining trucks.

That didn’t work too well as too many failed skill rolls ends up in big crashes. On the other hand the Matrix Lobby Scene was an amazing success. All I needed to do was casually mention the locations of discarded weapons and the players were using Tumble Attack/Evade all over the place.

So as inspiration art, not so much, cinema definitely!

RPGaDay2018 Day 17: the best compliment I have had while gaming.

This is a hard question to answer. I cannot actually remember ever having a compliment while gaming. The best compliment about my games must be that fact that the players keep coming back, and that they are prepared to travel half way across the country and spend good money on renting a house and all that sort of thing just to be able to play.

If I think about that in the cold light of day it is actually very flattering. So that is my answer for today’s question. Sad to say no one has ever said “OMG you are an amazing GM!” although that would be a little embarrassing.

RPGaDay2018 Day 16: Describe your plans for your next game.

Oh, complicated answer time…

I have borrowed the Darkspace supplement from a friend and I want to have a read of that. He isn’t GMing right now so I have a very long term loan of that book. He would be a player so as far as he is concerned I can have the book until after any resulting campaign ends. I have also been reading the complete works of H P Lovecraft so I really want to go in that direction. That probably isn’t going to be my next game though.

I really want to do some modern day gaming or near future Sci Fi. I have been focusing my Solo play in this genre. So I would love my next game as a player to be in that genre.

My next game session I am running is all planned out and the BBEG was really the inspiration for the Octopus in my City of Forgotten Heroes posts. I am 99% sure my players do not read my blog so I don’t think I have given anything away that I shouldn’t have.

I can also answer this in another way. I write games and release them. I have a supplement for my 3Deep game in progress but more excitingly I am nearing completion of my Wild West/Old West game. There were bits I simply could not do well so I have hired a freelance writer to do a decent job of what I was butchering. This has shifted the project over a show stopping barrier. So my next game release will be Devil’s Staircase Wild West Role Playing. That will also be my first kickstarter campaign (hopefully of many!).

So the answer could be evil monsterous octopi, shoggoths in the shopping mall, special forces taking on drug cartels or holding up a railroad locomotive. the options are limitless.

RPGaDay2018 Day 15: A tricky RPG experience that you enjoyed.

This one goes back to the days of MERP.

3 PCs in a dwarven jail, I think it was in Erebor but it could have been the Iron Hills, the exact location is not important. We had been tricked into killing the dwarven queen, as you do. You know what it is like, these things happen some times.

Anyway the original offense, whilst we were actually guilty, we did kill her and a lot of her body guard was not our fault. They had been covered by an illusion as we thought we were killing some orcish leader and its honour guard.

As a PC party we were incredibly powerful, so much so that once we realised our mistake I think we still killed a few of her body guard accidentally just using the flat of the blade trying to subdue them.

So once we realised out mistake we gave ourselves up and hoped to prove ourselves the victim of a deception and we didn’t really mean to kill her.

The trial did not go well.

There was one point where I think I said “We didn’t mean to kill her but to use she looked like and orc.” Her grieving husband didn’t take that too well.

Anyway the end result was we were sentenced to death the following morning.

So the 3 PCs are sat in a cell debating whether to escape or not. Our execution was to be quite unusual but the dwarves were under attack by a dragon so we were going to be thrown to the dragon.

So if we escape we would be hunted men, guilty of regicide and generally not very heroic.

If we didn’t escape, to be honest I would pity the dragon. I was in favour of not escaping and trying to prove our innocence by turning our execution into a trial by combat or of situation. One PC was all in favour of busting out and to hell with the dwarves. PC number three was suffering from a curse that meant he would believe anything that was told to him as a fact.

So the tricky situation was trying to resolve an important turning point in our characters lives with two completely different points of view while NOT saying anything that sounded like it was factual. The choice was just as important to the middle player’s character and we needed him to voice his actual opinion. So there was no saying “If we can beat the dragon they will have to accept that we are innocent.” because the other PC would then completely agree with you because you just told them that they would have to find us innocent.

This argument ranged back and forth for a long time.

The really funny thing was that the dragon was attacking the dwarves because it was trying to get to us. One of the PCs owned a sword that was +50 vs dragons but attracted all dragons within 100 miles to his location. By the time I won the argument there were three dragons outside but the dwarves accepted the argument that against those odds that if we could slay all three dragons and save their city from three dragons then we probably were the fated heroes that we claimed to be. We also said that once the dragons were dead, if they could find their lairs then the dwarves could have their hoards.

The dragons didn’t really stand a chance, as I said we were a powerful party. The worse wound I suffered was when a dragon fell on me and broke both my legs. It did rather cramp my style but I was rather good at healing magic so we all walked away at the end of the day.

So the tricky situation was trying not to unduly influence another player and that characters fate when they were doing their best to play ‘in character’.

RPGaDay2018 Day 14: Describe a failure that became amazing

I have told the story of our greatest role playing failure several times but it is such a wonderful story I will tell it once again.

So the GM (not me, I am innocent of this one!) is trying to bring the party together. It is a spacemaster game and my character is an insurgent against an evil empire. As I wander around the town other members of my team of dropping out of radio contact as if they are being picked off. Then I notice I am being tailed so I end up leading them to a cafe, lots of witnesses around should they try and make a move against me. Much to my surprise my tail sits down opposite me at my table. We are eyeing each other, full of distrust. I take my auto blaster out of its holster and it is aimed at this person under the table. Unknown to me the person opposite has done pretty much the same thing.

The tension builds….

A third person enters the cafe, walks up to our table and says “Hello” and the PCs all shoot each other and all roll fatal criticals. End of game.

Amazing but not in a good way, but it is a good story.

RPGaDay2018 Day 13: Describe how your play has evolved

So I am running behind schedule again. I have two days to catch up and I have a post that I want to share that has nothing to do with RPGaDay.

So how has my play evolved?

It is convoluted answer time….

When we started we were terrible role players. We were more roll players than role players. Our games were lots of kick in the door, kill the orcs and then repeat.

As we grew up a bit our games became much more sophisticated, character became much more important and I think I was probably 17yrs old when I actually created a character with a personality radically different from my own. Our games were more to do with political intrigue, world spanning politics or world saving high adventure than kicking in doors to kill orcs and steal their two copper pieces.

These days with my face to face game we have sort of regressed to hack and slash. The reason being that our games are so infrequent that we cannot keep all the subtle facts of a political intrigue game in our minds in the months between sessions.

In my play by post games I play much more sophisticated characters. As one has the time to really craft your responses you can be always in character. More than just speaking with your character’s voice you can pepper your responses with mannerisms and body language. As a GM you can layer on setting details to keep the world ever present in the players mind. You can use a palette of materials and textures when describing scenes much more often that you would when describing things to a group around your table. So my PBP gaming is much more sophisticated than my gaming table ever was.

The third kind of gaming I do is solo. Solo gaming is a way of playing that takes  a lot of practice. It is really hard to start but once you get the hang of it it is great fun. My solo play has also opened up a whole raft of games systems. If like me you have shelves of games you have bought but never played then solo play is a great way of getting them off the shelf and run an adventure. I have played games I never thought I would get to play. Some games I had read and thought sounded great on the page have proved really slow and uninspiring in play. The opposite is also true, games I had dismissed as ‘not for me’ have turned out to be great fun to play.

There is also a different sort of answer to this question.  How has my play evolved? It has become ever more simple. I settled on Rolemaster in the late 80s first with the red MERP book and then 1st edition RM. Since then we added every single companion, profession and skill but then came my maturing as a GM and I started removing that which I didn’t feel added anything so I would keep the new spell lists but one channeling/essence hybrid is pretty much like another so I would skip the professions. I found the constant subdivision of the skills into ever more specific just slowed down character creation and made the characters less proficient. Originally a character may have had Medicine or Surgery as a skill but once all the skills were in the game they probably needed Medicine -> Surgery -> Ear, Nose & Throat -> Nasal -> Left Nostril and of course if the critical has blocked the right nostril the character was down to using half skill as the left and right nostrils are only similar but not the same.

This quest of simplicity is what lead to my abandonment of levels, professions and development points and the querying of realms of magic. I have pretty much abandoned Arms Law for having too many tables and so on.

So it is not just how I play that has evolved but what I am playing.

RPGaDay2018 Day 12: Wildest Character Concept

I have been looking back at some of my previous PCs and actually the concepts behind them all are rather tame. The stand out character in recent years is probably my illusionist.

Silas by game profession was an illusionist but was employed most of the time at the Nomikos Library as a freelance researcher. When not helping people find what they were looking for in the library he lead an Indiana Jones style double life as a hunter of dark wizards, warlocks and witches and anyone who used magic for evil purposes.

I was quite surprised how effective he was taking out evil magic users. Illusionist make great spies as their have amazing powers of disguise. The essence open and closed lists give good functionality for spying. He tended to take out the spell caster using Gate Mastery to summon creatures to fight for him whilst remaining invisible and out of harms way, in the dead of night, with surprise and when his target was sleeping.

For a profession that lacks a lot of fire power at lower levels he really punched above his weight.

This character is one that snuck up on the GM in that he became incredibly powerful. Right from the off I made a point of collecting Rune Paper. Most of the magic items I collected in my adventures were inherently evil and I took these back to the Nomikos Library and gave them to the library staff to dispose of. Obviously I kept any spell bonus items but I also collected Runes and Rune Paper. I think the GM started to compensate me for all these great but evil items I kept giving away.

I made a point of telling the GM when I created a new rune and as my ability to store higher level spells increased I would revise the spells I had stored as runes. As anyone who knows Spell Law will know that there are some truly brilliant low level spells. I ended up with nearly 60 sheets of rune paper and these represented something like 300 powerpoints worth of my most powerful low level spells bound into a  ‘working spell book’.

So Silas the Witch Hunting Illusionist is my rather tame ‘Wildest Character Concept’

I am guessing you can all do better.

RPGaDay 2018 Day 11: Wildest Character Name?

This is well timed!

How about The Invincible Mage Eric the Terrible!

Eric is, or should I say was, the cause of much pain and suffering in our latest 50in50 adventure.

Following on from BriH’s 40th level spell and Rolemaster statted magic items in the The Curse of the Ancient Tomb this adventure has a new Rolemaster statted monster, the Velociraptor, the star of the first Jurasic Park movie.

You can tell by the stupid name that I wrote this but I assure you that this is a fun single page adventure and fully justifies getting out all those really cool dinosaurs from Creatures and Treasures.

I Am the Invincible Mage Eric the Terrible! sees the titular mage summon dinosaurs in order to terrorise a town. Sadly for Eric, although the summoning goes to plan, controlling the dinosaurs does not. Which leads to the characters having to deal with a town overrun by large, carnivorous creatures that are eating everything in sight and destroying much of what they see. Game stats for a velociraptor are included.

This is aimed at d100 systems but is generic enough in nature to be adapted to others.


I almost forgot but the Rolemasterblog Fanzine Issue #16 was released this week. It is all about adventures and adventure writing.  It touches on a undead adventures with “The Magpie Crypt” and a unique monster in The Cave of Horror. There is also an essay on The Faerie  Orchestra inspired by a real place in Iceland that could be a source of several adventures.