The orcs are coming!

Before I get on with the main point of today’s post I want to digress somewhat…

I use Google Drive and in there is a folder of ideas. In the ideas folder there are a great many other folders. Every time I have an idea I create a folder for it and then stick a simple text document in the folder to describe what I was thinking. If it was inspired by an article or an image or whatever then I may stick all these things into the folder.

As a general rule I create more folders like this each week than I complete. Some of the ideas I will never touch again. Maybe I have a deeper look and realise that it was not a good idea. Sometimes I turn them into full on commercial products either RPGs or supplements. I have published one game (3Deep), one is about to go to public play test (Devil’s Staircase Wild West Role Playing) and one has been completed once but upon reflection needs revising. One game (Rolemaster Kids) is still in its infancy as I have not completely finalised the core mechanics let alone all the supporting material.

My supplements vary from simple 10 page adventure outlines to 60+ page more substantial supplements. I think I have published 30 or more or the smaller supplements like that.

There are the things that do not really fit in any neat category. These bounce around. Sometimes I work on them and they start to develop and then I look back and strike down a lot of what I had already written when looking at it again after a break.

This month is unusual as I have actually completed more of the mini projects in my ideas folder than I have created new ones. In addition I have learned some new skills that have solved a problem that was holding many of the other projects back.

One of these ‘bed blocker’ ( a terrible phrase used to dehumanise elderly patients being kept in hospitals because the UK has inadequate social care for the elderly ) projects was to convert the D&D 5e monsters from the SRD (Standard Reference Document) into Rolemaster compatible monsters.

The sorts of monsters I am talking about are orcs, goblins, giants and amusingly a Balor which is a D&D attempt to sidestep the Intellectual Property rights around the Balrog in role playing games. So D&D stole the Balrog to make the Balor possibly from RM 1st Edition and I am now converting the Balor from 5e back into RM. What goes around comes around. As all these monsters are part of the SRD we are free to use them as long as due credit is given.

So what is the point?

The point is that we spent the summer writing adventures that we really wanted to use to promote Rolemaster but we were hobbled at every turn because we cannot publish any of the monster stats as they are ICE IP. We cannot talk about what spells and lists the NPCs may have because they are covered by ICE IP and so on.

So I have had this project on the back burner since I first started this blog. I published a few monsters converting denizens of the underdark as new Rolemaster monsters. The intention was to encourage more D&D players to try Rolemaster. The more of the Forgotten Realms monsters that were available in RM means that players can reuse all their FR books but with RM PCs.

So last week I made an Orc. This is just the basic grunt of an orc and I used my own rules to create them. Bearing in mine that this is a D&D 5e Orc what do you think?

The stat bonuses include racial modifiers and there is still some work to do. I want to get rid of the (MS/AG) SL/MD crap and use real words that anyone can understand without having to use a look up table.


Orc Grunt

Level 3
Base Rate 55’
Max Pace/MM Bonus Fast Sprint/+10
Speed (MS/AG) SL/MD
Size/Critical M
Hits 58

80 60 80 35 55 50
+15 +5 +15 -10 +0 +0

AT 3 (20) Leather Hide or by Armour type
Attacks OB 38 Weapon Spear or Javelin
Environment: Temperate hills

Organization: Gang (2-4), squad (11-20 plus 2 5th level sergeants and 1 leader of 9th level), or band (30-100 plus 150% non-combatants plus 1 5th level sergeant per 10 adults, 5 8th level lieutenants, and 3 11th level captains)

An orc’s hair usually is black. It has lupine ears and reddish eyes. Orcs prefer wearing vivid colours that many humans would consider unpleasant, such as blood red, mustard yellow, yellow-green, and deep purple. Their equipment is dirty and unkempt. An adult male orc is a little over 6 feet tall and weighs about 210 pounds.

Females are slightly smaller.

The language an orc speaks varies slightly from tribe to tribe, but any orc is understandable by someone else who speaks Orc. Some orcs know Goblin or Giant as well.

Most orcs encountered away from their homes are warriors; the information in the statistics block is for one of 1st level.


Orcs are proficient with all simple weapons, preferring those that cause the most damage in the least time. Many orcs who take up the warrior or fighter class also gain proficiency with the

falchion or the great axe as a martial weapon. They enjoy attacking from concealment and setting ambushes, and they obey the rules of war (such as honouring a truce) only as long as it is convenient for them.

Comparing Orcs

So this is just the basic orc. How do they compare?

  • A rolemaster orc is 2nd level and mine is 3rd level.
  • A Rolemaster orc has a base move of 50′ and mine 55′
  • The default #hits is 50 and mine has 58.
  • The AT and DB was 8(30s) and mine is 3(20) but without a shield or wearing armour.
  • OB-wise the default orc has an OB of 40 for both melee and missile. Mine has 38 for both.

The first impression is that of swings and roundabouts. A few extra hits here and a couple of points less OB there. C&T offers us two orcs a lesser and greater. The D&D 5e monster comes in 5 flavours from Grunt 3rd level to Captain at 11th level.

All my experience is with RM2 and RMC and I was trying to fit the 5e Orc into the RM2 Orc’s shoes.

All my playtesting of RMU has been human vs human as the normalised monsters in Beta 2 filled me with horror. How would this Orc stack up against an RMU PC?

Rolemaster Monster Manual

I am not offering a Rolmaster Monster Manual, or at least not soon. What I am offering is to build a reference of monsters that will be free to all and free from IP restrictions. This means that we can finally properly stat our adventures.

This is work in progress but I will make two commitments. Firstly, I will not sit on this until it is all complete. I will be releasing each creature as I do it. I have not thought about formats yet but I think many GMs would like a physical book they can flip though and stick book marks in. So if that proves to be true then I will publish this, but that is a discussion for another day. The other commitment is two fold really. I will commit to doing this as fast as I can, not a monster a week as that would take years. One the other had I cannot say I will spend tens of hours on this each week; there has to be a compromise. That compromise will be that Rather than starting from A in the monster manual I will do things on a request and demand basis. If you are looking at publishing an adventure but want a monster then let me know and I will create the monster for you. That is the request element, if there is a request for a monster then I will supply it.  I work on many adventures, these days mostly for the Fanzine. If I need a monster then I will create it and then add it the public list. If there is a demand for a monster then I will meet that demand and then share it.

I will have a think about the logistics of all this this week.



13 Replies to “The orcs are coming!”

  1. It is an interesting project, and I agree the IP is a bit of an issue that one has to work around.

    Personally, I am focused on RMU right now, so I have a few questions about your stat block. Firstly, four of your stats are dual stats: the Orc’s quickness and agility bonuses are the same. Quickness and Agility have been combined, as have Reasoning and Empathy, Intuition and Memory, and Presence/SD. Is that because you were starting with DnD’s six stats? I can definitely see the Wisdom (pun intended) in combining Quickness and Agility to get DnD’s Dexterity. The others don’t match as well though. Intuition is close to wisdom, but Memory I’m not sure is. Presence is very close to Charisma, but Self Discipline is not.

    Secondly, the Orc has a +15 Strength bonus — I am assuming you are thinking in RM2/RMC terms here? That would translate into an RMU strength bonus of about +5.

    You asked how this orc would hold up against an RMU character. Probably pretty well I think. The DB seems a little high: a +5 Qu bonus in RM2/C would translate to about a +2 bonus in RMU; times that by 3 and you get a total DB from quickness of about +6. Where is the remaining +14 DB coming from, if the Orc is not wielding a shield?

    RM2 did have a bit of a problem with creature DBs, in the sense that it seemed at times to artificially inflate them to make the monsters more formidable, but not to let the players/GMs know where all that extra DB was coming from. So I don’t think you want to make the same mistake. An Orc’s DB might then be +26 (with normal shield), and 6 without.

  2. Oh, also: the OB and hits may be a little low, in RMU terms, for a 3rd level creature.

    For OB, we can assume that Orcs come from a very violent, weapon-oriented society, and a grunt, being a fighter-type, is going to take two ranks per level and get a professional bonus in that weapon. Culture ranks would probably add a few more ranks on top of that, for say a total of 7 or 8 ranks at level 3. Then you’ve got bonuses for strength and agility, equivalent to about +12 on top. So let’s say 7 ranks x6 (5 for the rank, 1 for the professional bonus) + 12 for the stats, and that equals about a +54 OB.

    As for hits, the orc is going to again have about the same bonus from ranks and stats, but of course in RMU, races also get a starting hit point bonus. For an orc, that is going to be +25 or +30, I would think. So a third-level Grunt might have as many as 83 or 88 hits (8 ranks with a professional bonus = 48, +10 for con stat bonus).

    Those OB and hits numbers would be significantly reduced if you made your orc level 2. Basically, you can reduce both by 12, giving an OB of 42 and starting hits of 71 or 76. You could also reduce the professional bonus for Orcs that are not fighters (Thieves, Rogues, etc.).

  3. Firstly, yes the stats are coming from the D&D 6 to the RM 10 stats.

    I thought I had actually done the best match. I can see a huge inter-relationship between Wisdom and Memory. How often have you ever done something really stupid and then either told yourself or had some helpfully suggest that you won’t do that again? I know that is a jokey answer but think of the whole idea of not repeating the mistakes of the past? Isn’t that at the core of wisdom?

    As to the relationship between Charisma and Self Discipline. I was very tempted to put this in with Wisdom but then I decided against it. If one looks at the worlds ‘beautiful people’ how many of them are slobs that have let themselves go? I am guessing somewhere around less than one percent? In very brief that is why SD has become part of the old Charisma characteristic.

    Regarding the DB then yes you are 100% right. I was sort of aiming to get close to RM2/RMC figures and they are quite arbitrary. I will revise them downwards.

    I may try and compromise between RMU and RMC with the stat bonuses and then round to the near how +/-5. That would turn the Orcs strength bonus to a +10, and knock 5 off its OB.

    I am not after a complete carbon copy of the RMU monsters but a simple to use universal monster manual for independent adventures.

    So with that in mind do you think it would work?

    1. I think you make a sufficient argument for grouping wisdom and memory. SD and Charisma though to me still don’t quite seem to match. We can all name quite a few people with high charisma but low SD (Bill Clinton for example, or many actors and actresses), or with low charisma and high SD (a solitary hermit, a gruff warrior monk). I’m not sure it matters all that much, but it might.

      I think your project could work; but to play Devil’s Advocate, I might ask if it would work better than just avoiding using stats and referring to Orcs, with the assumption that people will use the RMU Creature Law stats for Orcs (for creatures that are in Creature Law at least). You can’t talk about specific spells of course, but perhaps you can just be more vague: Lich’s prefer spells that damage the body and soul, for example. If you keep it vague enough, perhaps players can connect the dots to what is in RMU Creature Law. Then you can talk at least generally about spells, but not harm ICE’s IP; in fact, you will also be promoting RMU Creature Law at the same time.

      For creatures that are not in Creature Law (e.g. ones unique to DnD), you have more of a carte blanche to write them up as you want.

      1. Working with the non-Creature Law monsters has a lot of merits but does not help independent adventure writers. They still cannot use the core monsters from just about every fantasy setting, no orcs, no undead, no giant, orgres or trolls.

        What I am thinking about is a adventure writers tool kit. If really doesn’t matter if the monsters are less or more powerful than the genuine article. The monster itself is only part of the equation. In RM especially the numbers encountered is more important than the power of the individuals.

        A kind of sweet spot I would like to achieve is a single monster stat block that can be used interchangeably with RMC/RMSS and RMU. In some RMSS you may have to up the number encountered and for RMU use less (as an example).

        What it means is that full on adventures can be produced.

        Regarding monster spell effects and spell casting NPCs then we can legally give their level, stats, profession and spell list names but we cannot give examples of spells. I don’t see that as a major issue and there is another option. One of the things that people liked about D&D modules back in the day were new monsters, magic items and spells that were presented as part of the module. With an NPC spell caster a developer could bundle a new spell list in with the content and then make that the casters ‘go to’ list. As the developer then you own the rights.

        Spell lists are not too much work but this could be a topic for another day.

    1. I am guessing their biggest expenses would be the art and paying the writing team.

      Kickstarter would not work for RMU because the supporters get upset if they pledge money and the project never moves forward.

      Independent writers develop products faster as they don’t get paid until the book is on the shelf and being sold.

      1. There’s an interesting article in The Sandbox #1 (from Sine Nomine) on Kickstarter. The author, Kevin Crawford, is a one man band who runs Sine Nomine Publishing. At the time of writing he had done three successful Kickstarters and has since done three more, included one very successful one.

        I wouldn’t have though Limitless were a particularly huge company either. Perhaps you could run a Kickstarter for your monster book!

        1. The Sandbox #1 is really useful!

          A kickstarter is something I would not have considered. I remain worried about the tiny niche that Rolemaster occupies.

          There are two concerns. Firstly, the reason for this blogs existence is to promote RM. If people were to buy the monster book INSTEAD OF Creature Law would that harm Rolemaster? This is a small concern as I know what I would do and that is buy both. When I played D&D I would scavenge monsters from any source and I used to like it when a module had a new monster.

          The second concern is right now as of 17th Oct 2017 the main market for RM products, however small it is, is for RM2/RMC and RMSS/RMFRP. If the monster book opened up a market for independent supplement producers like you and I to start creating fully statted adventure modules for these older systems might that not damage RMU. Once RMU is released then ICE will withdraw support for RMC/RMSS to funnel people to RMU. This book could allow independents to keep those older systems alive and take away the reason for migrating to RMU.

          I know the opposite is also true. If there was a body of independent developers supporting all flavours of RM then that will build the market for ICE to leverage and can be good for RMU.

          I would have not qualms about publishing each monster individually on the blog and it would not cross my mind that that was harming RMU. So putting them all in a single volume just makes them easier to access, it doesn’t change the fact of their existence.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the goal of properly stat-ing out adventures. Not having stats in the actual adventure is a terrible backwards step that DnD 5e has taken, and I hate it. (So 5e DnD modules like Out of the Abyss, for example, don’t have the monster stats integrated into the core text; they actually just refer you to the Monster Manual. That for me is terrible).

    So yes, if you could have a generic database of monsters, that would be an achievement, IMHO.

    BTW, did you get my version of Xan the Enforcer? I sent it to the email address you gave last week, but wasn’t sure if you got it.

    1. I have your Xan thanks. I was surprised that you said you didn’t have any house rules but I wasn’t going to say anything 🙂

      I notice you do your no temps or pots (Stats) just bonuses.

  5. Yeah, I realized afterwards that we do use several house rules! Getting rid of stats (and just using bonuses) was the first one we implemented.

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