I posted my first entry to this website a few weeks ago and implied that I was going to write more, at least about spell lists. That has not happened.
Instead, amidst the slowly expanding but disorganized mess that I did write, I found a few other things I wanted to talk about which I believe provide necessary context. This post serves as an outline to help me organize my thoughts… and to warn you about what I have planned. Ok, and also as a way of committing myself to following through and finishing. I might change this outline based on comments, on a need to break this up even further (I’m looking at you, CLT&SL) and on ordering (thoughts about rpgs can come at any time, and is the most fluffy.)
The Cost of Charts
Maybe charts are good, maybe charts are bad, but charts are definitely expensive. Since charts are the elephant in the room when it comes to Rolemaster, I think it is important to talk about the size of that elephant. This post will put math to explain why I claim charts are expensive. I will also suggest that rule tinkerers (You know who you are!) who have been adopting a single “Non-profession” class in RM, or who have been having problems with skill categories in general and how they don’t quite work the way you want in RMU, or who have been surprised about how long it RMU has been gestating have run into the iron wall of this math. It’s light math, so don’t worry!
The Illusion of Choice
Many of the choices we think we have in real life are not choices at all, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the game is rigged with options that are not worth taking, sometimes we are heavily guided, almost coerced, by social engineering, and sometimes we are deluded that something deterministic involved any choice at all. This discussion will focus on various kind of false choice in rpgs. Although the conversation generally applies to all rpgs, it especially matters for RM, because choices in RM cost a lot more than they do in most other rpgs because of math.
The Splendor of Classes, Levels, Talents and Spell Lists
Although sometimes maligned, there is much to admire about all of the features featured in the title. I want to talk about that. Although I don’t think they come together quite right in RM, I think that they can, or at least come closer. I want to talk about that too. None of these features originated in Rolemaster. Of these features, only Spell Lists have been significantly developed and leveraged within Rolemaster. All can be retained without creating more adverse math, even if false choices within these features are also retained.
The Right Setting for Rolemaster
The right setting should be cool, of course, but I’m not cool enough to come up with that! So I will settle for a conversation about the characteristics I think that game world should have. It might be a short conversation: I think magic in the right setting for RM should be ubiquitous but usually of low to moderate power. Pretty much every PC should have spells and/or interesting talents. This seems contrary to the mindset I infer from having spent time around RM players and forums, so perhaps the conversation might not be so short after all.
Some RPGs I Think You Should Know About
There has been a lot of RPG system development and evolution since RM was published, nearly all of which has occurred outside of RM. If you are tinkering with RM, I think some of these other games deserve your attention, to plunder for ideas and perhaps to think about while reading this series of posts. At the very least, I wish to talk about a few: Anima pretty much stole the core RM system but then did something very different with it, different from anything that ICE has done with it, and not just because of the slick production values. Ironclaw (Squaring the Circle) might disturb you because it is written by, for and about furries, but it is a solid system of special interest to RM fans because of how it handles magic and combat lethality. Burning Wheel is a low magic, consequence-ridden system whose rules govern players as much as characters, attempting to achieve an old-school feel through modern means. I do not necessarily recommend any of these for you to play, especially since I suspect you already have a favorite system!