Unifying and Simplification: Rolemaster Herbs

One of the early appeals of Rolemaster was it’s “realism”, and while most people thought of the combat system there was also exhaustive material around magical herbs. In many ways, RM herbs supplanted traditional fantasy RPGs reliance on healing magic and healing potions. Some even argue that RM healing spells are relatively weak, or that the detailed injury system required too many spells to heal even minor wounds.

I think many players/groups use herbs in different ways: some to augment natural healing processes while others allow for instant, miraculous healing effects. “Chew and screw” so to speak. Instant effects allow groups without skilled healers to adventure, or groups in intensive dungeon environments to maintain their tempo.

No matter how a GM handles effects and healing times, RM established some basic criteria for herbs: location codes(biome), form, prep and rarity. Peter discussed creature codes  in a previous blog, and certainly RM herb codes were another example of over complexity!

RMU has done much to simplify herb criteria; biomes are simplified, rarity is given a modifier and “form” & “prep” are fairly simple. What RMU didn’t do is completely unify these simplified criteria with the RM skill and resolution process.

What we have done is apply difficulty modifiers to 3 criteria for herbs.

  1. Rarity. The same as RMU, we give herbs a modifier for it’s rarity. This can be applied to a foraging/survival skill check or as a check to see if an herbalist or store stocks the herb.
  2. Preparation.  This is where we diverge from RMU which sort of combines prep and application into one criteria. Each herb is given a prep modifier, based on the difficulty in preparing the agent for use. Whether that’s brewing, distilling, steeping, powdering etc.
  3. Application.  Finally, we give an herb an application modifier, based on the difficulty of delivering it’s effects. For healing and other herbs with a range of effects the maneuver roll can act as a % of success–so a 85% roll would delivery 85% of the healing effect. For herbs with an “all or nothing” effect it’s simply a pass/fail maneuver.

Interestingly, you can have a herb that is relatively easy to prepare but difficult to apply correctly or more commonly, difficult to prepare by very easy to apply. For herbs that require no prep, or the application is easy we just give it an n/a and don’t require a skill check.

Using these criteria gives herbs complexity, but still rely on the simple skill resolution process.  Additionally, players may need to rely on different herbs at lower level that don’t require a high level of skill to prepare or apply, or may need to pay an herbalist to do the preparation for them. (For simplicity sake, I don’t get into much detail on “freshness” and removed most of the herb keeping spells from BASiL).

Also note, we put all rolemaster herbs into our SW Master Encounter table by biome. You can find that HERE.

So this is the last blog for May! Whew, we did a blog every day this month!!! For the next few months I’m going to reduce by blog pace to about 1/wk and focus on getting adventure files ready, finish the other projects I’m working on and do a bit of travelling overseas!

10 Replies to “Unifying and Simplification: Rolemaster Herbs”

  1. We actually did 32 posts this month as we had a two post day last week!

    You said, I think it was in March, that you wanted to do a post a day. By that I thought you meant personally so I eased off. Once I realised what you meant we achieved it easily. I have also seen the amount of stuff we are doing behind the scenes which makes it even more impressive.


    There is one aspect of herbs that you didn’t cover and as it happens I wrote an adventure about a herb last night. The missing element is addiction factor. Do you still include that?

  2. I wouldnt have been able to do it my myself–so thanks to everyone.

    Generally I don’t bother with AF–just too much paperwork and granularity and the RAW still feel clunky. I do have addictive substances, Priest-King has Kofe Leaf which plays into the module narrative quite a bit.

  3. I am mulling over issues with herbs, a small part of me wants to force players to make resistance rolls against them. After all what is the difference between a herb with side effects and a poison?

    1. That’s peeling back the onion!
      From a deconstruction standpoint, RRs were the ICE equivalent of D&D Saving Throws. Saving Throws weren’t actually “resistance” per se, they were more akin to a Fate Point or a last ditch roll to avoid a deadly affect through some heroic effort. The actual mechanism to avoid the effect was a bit of a hand wave. As I blogged about Save Throws came out of the war game rule set by Arneson.
      Resistance Rolls were an evolution of that game mechanic, but RM took out physical effects like elemental bolts, balls and dragon breath and treated those as physical attacks. That left Saving Throws for Poison, Disease and Magic (broken up by Realm and further confused by Hybrid Realms). Since they were renamed “Resistance Rolls” it implied that these effects could somehow be countered by force of will, presence or constitutional fortitude. This premise was swallowed whole by RMers without much thought–but your simple question above punctures that accepted rule.
      This is something I’m muddling around with in my rules and in BASiL: what, if ANYTHING, can be truly resisted?

      1. It is the idea that races get different bonuses to resistance rolls vs poison. Halflings get +30 which is not insignificant. That to me implies that Halflings are more resistant to poisons than say Dwarves (+20 vs Poison) and Elves (+10) and Humans (+0).

        That does not to me imply any relationship to fate points. It does imply biology.

        I am seeing a single spectrum with truly beneficial herbs at one end, deadly poisons at the other and the middle ground filled with herbs that come with side effects, including addiction, and milder poisons that have some incidental positive effect.

        What I don’t see is a binary Good/Bad Herb/Poison distinction with a Good/Bad biology built into the races. So herbs always take effect but poisons are always resisted.

        Thinking about this overnight I am starting to like your skill based resolution. What I also thinking is that resistance rolls should be resolved on the same skill roll mechanism. with partial success, near success and success being viable results.

        1. In real life, poisons are not necessarily poisonous – it all depends on the quantity. Digitalis is either a deadly poison or a heart medicine; it just depends how much you take.

          1. I totally agree. I the right dose it is a life saving medicine or ‘healing herb’ in the wrong dose it is a poison. Under the RAW the person would get a resistance roll dependent on the intentions of the person doing the application. I don’t think that works at a cellular level.

            1. Perhaps it might if the person using the herbs had some sort of magical influence on them, or some type of magical preparation was done to the herbs before they were used. Otherwise, probably not.

      2. I think poisons are the only definite thing off the top of my head that could be resisted. But you probably don’t want to go too in depth into realism for such as electricity, fire, cold etc. unless you want to go full Call of Cthulhu and have disposable characters.

        1. Disease is the next most obvious but then I would put hypnotism, public speaking, seduction, loss of balance/vertigo into the potential bucket. Not that I want to go down that road. I can see BriH’s point.

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