Three weeks and counting

My next face to face game session is in 3 weeks today. The party has been in the same underground cave system (under the tower of Ashaba) in human terms since November 2014. They have had 24hrs of actual play time since then and hopefully they should get another 20hrs of play time in the next gaming weekend. This particular weekend will be a bit different as one game we have been playing for the past six years will come to an end. We had been having half the weekend playing in Shadow World and half in my Forgotten Realms world. I suspect that all the Shadow World characters will die very quickly on Friday night or early Saturday.

I am still migrating them slowly off of Rolemaster 2nd Edition (RM2) and onto Rolemaster Classic (RMC) and this time they will see the biggest changes to play.

The stand out changes will be in combat and there is normally a lot of combat in our sessions. The Shadow World GM liked to have one big fight at the end of each session, al most like an end of level boss. After years of this several things stood out. Firstly as a GM he would tend to evenly match the numbers of bad guys to players. I do not mean that there were always four bad guys, but we stormed a tower and every level had four defenders. I do not remember how many guys were with the boss at the top but there were definitely the boss and two lieutenants but there probably was someone else as well. In another fight there were four war trolls as body guard to an evil sorcerer, we sort of defiled a temple to Orgiana and had to fight four demons and then three summoned monsters and a living statue. As you may guess that there are four characters in the party. Where this would fall down was that as we grew more powerful some of us had multiple attacks via haste, adrenal move speed or two weapon combo or a comination of two of those. Others in the party were still doing one single attack a round. Now four enemy vs four PCs did not equate to one kill each. What actually happened is that two of us would kill our target and then finish off the wounded foe of another party member. Over time this lead to up to a six levels difference between the highest and lowest level party members. Six levels makes a lot of difference in Rolemaster.

The second observation was that it was extremely rare for a combat to take more than six rounds to complete. It is very rare for anyone to last more than three rounds in single combat and it was unusual for the GM to pit us against more than two vs one odds. When you get to three against one in Rolemaster the fight is much more likely to bigger force. What this means is that the Magician in the party really did not believe in conserving power points.

As a GM I have a different style. The players have not really noticed yet as they are just first level and there is a limit of how much you can throw at a first level party but things will change. They already have enough experience to level up and the job is not done yet and the biggest challenges are yet to come as are the biggest rewards.

So to get back on topic, I am migrating the party more over to RMC and the changes this time will be in combat. One of the big differences between the two systems is that in RMC you roll initiative and the fastest person goes first. In RM2 that is not strictly true. RM2 has a system of Phases. Magic is resolved first, then missile, then movement and finally melee. So imagine this situation. One character draws back his bow string and aims at almost point blank range at a high level magician. At the start of the next round before that arrow can be released the magician can cast a spell. If the magician is over 17th level he can cast lightning bolt and kill the archer or teleport and escape because they take place in the spell phase and the magician needs no preparation time then only way the archer can possibly kill the magician is if the mage fumbles his attack roll. Even of the archer rolled the best initiate roll possible and the magician rolled the worst magic always goes first. Not in RMC. You roll your initiative and the fastest person goes first. Bang,.. dead magician!

The second change is that I am using the condensed combat system from the Rolemaster Classic Combat Companion. This was an excelent companion but you can only get it on ebay these days despite begging for an updated version (something to do with (licensing the artwork).

Going back to the Shadow World game, the bog end of level boss fight as I have said was generally four vs four or four vs five and generally lasted no more than six combat rounds. This would probably take three hours to resolve. Part of the problem was that we generally had so many attacks to resolve but still six combat rounds in three hours is not exactly a blistering pace.

The condensed combat system takes everything from eight to ten pages of Arms Law and condenses it down on to a single page. You get multiple weapons on a page and the matching critical. If in the past one person was using a scimitar and another a broadsword each would have their own page for attacking and you could need three different critical tables (each on their own page). Each page ofthe condensed system handles up to 10 weapons and their criticals.

Another nice touch is that before every pointy weapon did puncture critical, every blade did slases, every blunt instrument did krushes (as the books had it). Now long blades have their own critical, great blades have their own. Crossbows do different criticals than drawn bows and so on. This section of the book offers greater realism and greater simplicity and greater speed of exectution.

The way I like to run combats is more like you see in the James Bond movies, a sequence of encounters, back to back with little or no respite. In a big blow out if someone gets injured it makes little difference as you can heal them after the event and everyone is fit to fight another day. In a rolling combat you have to carry this wounded companion with you. Bleeding wounds are a bigger issue and healing on the move. The spell casters will need to conserve their power and that means making the best possible use of the lower level spells that than firing off a fireball every round.

Lots of people like to use the RM software Combat Minion but I am reticent to use a computer programme to resolve combat. I may go there but if I can avoid it I will.

In the meantime I will let you know how long it takes to carry out a decent combat.

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