The Next Generation

Peter’s newest post (welcome back Peter!) had me thinking of a recent opportunity that has arisen. My lifelong friend, and part of our gaming group in the 80’s, asked if I would be interested in DMing a game for his son and friends. These are kids in their early twenties, and are just casual gamers that played around with D&D the last few years.

I’m a bit rusty, my regular game group has slowly dissolved since COVID and for the last 35 years I’ve been almost exclusively a Rolemaster/Shadow World players barring a brief run of Pathfinder that Matt ran 10 years ago. I’d like to give it a try, but it would likely be a 1-shot “all-nighter” since they don’t live in commuting distance.

I’m left with a few decisions:

  1. Run a D&D game for them. Downside: The last time I played it was 1st ed., so I would need quite a bit of review and learning. Upside: I suspect it’s the ruleset they are most familiar and I’m sure I could find a ton of game material to choose from.
  2. Introduce them to Rolemaster. They would have to be open to it, but this would be the easiest for me. Upside: Tons of experience, I have lots of material. Downside: I wouldn’t want to bore/overwhelm them with chargen, but, that is part of the process in learning the character a game.

If I had my preference, I’d run them through my “Legends of Shadow World“. It was designed to be “tourney style” and playable in 4-6 hours. I think it’s dynamic material and I already have pre-gen characters for them to use. There is a “but”. It’s a 50th level adventure that leans into Shadow World quite a bit. So these new players would need to get their heads wrapped around skills, abilities and spells of a 50th level character and would need some deep background on SW given who their characters are.

As I get older, I’m more focused on collaborative story telling and setting material and less concerned about rules. With my SWARM ruleset, these characters have less skills and far less spells than core RM rules allow, so it’s not completely overwhelming. The style of play at 50th level is not that different than most any other level (barring 1st to 5th) and the larger than life personalities lend itself to more of a Superhero game style.

What do you think? Can relatively unexperienced D&D players handle 50th level Rolemaster adventure?

7 Replies to “The Next Generation”

  1. Based on my experiences with new gamers, I would think something like this would be a bit much for newcomers to the hobby. Like it or not, most novices lean heavily into common gaming tropes and character types (elves, hobbits, etc.), and in my experience it’s best to start them with things like that. I don’t agree that play style at 50th level “is not that different than most any other level”, honestly. Magic alone is going to be overwhelming to a newcomer. And when you factor in Shadow World, which is off-putting to some experienced gamers, the curve gets even steeper.

    You could throw them into it and see what happens, I suppose, but I’d personally lean toward customizing something for them that leans into what they expect and are interested in. Just because they’ve played D&D doesn’t mean they’re familiar with the rules per se, and one way I found to make RM chargen more palatable was to work up essentially cultural and professional “skills profiles” so at least half of the work was done for them already. Having those profiles also helped my newcomers identify more with the culture and profession of their character and how it fit into my setting.

    1. I don’t disagree..but I’m still leaning into doing the 50th lvl adventure. I think the epic nature of the settings, memorable foes and of course it’s a total railroad will stick with them afterwards more than a dungeon with orcs, slimes and spiders.

      I can streamline the Pre-gens so they only show the skills and spells necessary for the adventure, use a very simple action turn and provide exposition during the adventure rather than a massive data dump prior to the game. I can also let them review the SW Player Guide.

      Besides the Jaiman “Crown” adventure path, there really isn’t much for stand-alone Rolemaster adventures. I’m considering the “Haunted Village” but it’s pretty basic and maybe too short.

      1. I didn’t say anything about orcs, slimes, and spiders. The trick is to find something THEY might be interested in and use that to bring them in. I’ve run many, many games with newcomers to the hobby, and I don’t think I’ve used the above-mentioned orcs, slimes, or spiders even once. In fact, quite often they don’t run into “monsters” per se until later in the campaign. I’ve also found pregen characters to be less successful than running them through even an abbreviated character creation process. And you don’t gain much by stripping said characters down if your goal is to introduce the players to RM.

        My suggestion would still be find out what they want or are interested in and tailor something to meet that. And give them as much of a taste of actual RM character creation as you think they can handle. Stripping down or hiding crucial parts of the process doesn’t do anyone any favors. Or brush up on D&D and run something they already know and are familiar with.

  2. If I had to GM young newcomers, I’d go with the Green Gryphon Inn.
    Not sure what adventure exactly there, but the setting is SW enough, classic enough, and can easily be adapted to any level of epicness due to the nearby portal.

    1. That’s a good idea. I just re-read it last week, and couldn’t help but think it was a reskinned “Bree” module. (which isn’t a bad thing)

  3. I can’t speak to what adventure I would run from Shadow World. I can say that I’ve run my nephews through some homemade adventures using RM2. One has never gamed before at all, one only gamed once before (5e), and another plays 5e regularly. I gave them pregen characters that were 10-12th level. They all caught onto the basics quickly enough, so I think the question of system palatability can be answered “yes, RM can work with newbies.”
    On the question of what they might expect for story, I really try to avoid most of the tropes and standard stories. They were eco-terrorists attacking a keep that was clearing the forests and wiping out the wildlife, in a tropical jungle. They totally got into it.
    So I would say, maybe it comes down primarily to the story being compelling and the rules being streamlined. If you can run it with them getting the basics, while you do the heavy lift, they’ll enjoy it.

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