Sell me on Rolemaster (either)

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Leon ap Hywel

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so to be honest up front I'm not changing tack from my intended Mythras game.

However I'm seeing some love for Rolemaster. Now this is a game I owned a long time ago but daunted me with size and perceived complexity.

So I'm interested, why the love? What about RM gets your motor going and you all got and flustered?
 

David Johansen

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Okay, first off Rolemaster isn't as scary as it looks and I should warn you, once you're hooked it's hard to let go of it.

One thing about RM is that it tends to try and have it both way, niche protection and open access to skills and abilities for example. One thing I love about RMSS is that you buy your stats with points but roll for your potential stats. So, while you get what you want, sometimes that dumb as a rock fighter will actually turn out to be pretty smart. No, it's not as simple as straight points buy or straight random rolls but it hits a lot of the advantages of both. Professions focus your character concept but aren't a straight jacket, a mage pays less to learn spells than a fighter and pays more to learn weapon skills. The profession spell lists give a unique flavor to each profession. Training packages in RMSS make picking your skills easier, don't worry about all the hundreds of skills just buy the training package and it'll give you what you need.

Combat is faster than you'd think with all the table flipping because critical hits kill things or at least stun them so you can kill them next round.
 

The Butcher

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Don't be a tease, David; give Horus the link to your Arcane Confabulation game.

Horus, I detest RM but David's game (previously Dragon Shadowed Lands) made me sit up and seriously look into it.
 

Leon ap Hywel

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Don't be a tease, David; give Horus the link to your Arcane Confabulation game.

Horus, I detest RM but David's game (previously Dragon Shadowed Lands) made me sit up and seriously look into it.
I'll have a read ;)

RM and Merp just oozed flavour when I was younger but I could never fathom the desire for what appeared unnecessary complexity.

Ironically as I've got older I'm loving the old school mechanics way more than the newfangled bits and bobs of new design.
 

TristramEvans

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I was player in a two-year campaign using Rolemaster, so I'll give my impressions from that perspective.

The complexity, as far as gameplay is concerned, tends to be exaggerated. There's a chart or two, and these are easy to use. I'd picked up the flow of gameplay within the first half hour of the first game. It produces what I assume or perceive as pretty realistic results, with heavy emphasis on weapon and armour types. Realism means its deadly, so its the kind of game where you want to pick your battles and try to gain any advantage you can. By the third game I'd perfected the tactic of hiding in the bushes waiting for an enemy to pass by and then rushing at them with an axe from behind. Resolution is pretty much universal throughout the system, its just knowing which chart to use. All in all, it plays smoothly and as long as the GM knows what they are doing, the complexity isnt perceptibly moreso than that of a typical game of D&D.

However, character creation and, even more so, levelling up, is where the system's crunchiness really shows. I think its even accurate to say that the massive crunch of the system is very front-loaded. Making a new character is a session-long endeavour, I used to dread going up in level, because it meant another 15 - 20 minutes of calculations. I would never GM this game because I cant imagine how to do up simple NPCs on the fly, without having a bunch of templates prepped before the game. As a personal matter of taste, I don't like games where chargen is so complex that one can expect to take a whole game night just creating a party of adventurers, so that is the main drawback of rolemaster that I saw. Oh, and the magic system is devoid of any...well, magic. I found it flavourless, mechanical, and dull. But that again is probabaly mainly a matter of personal aesthetics.
 

Spartan

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Oh man, I love Rolemaster and MERP.

Asides from what's already been stated, the thing about RM is that it heavily flavours whatever it is you're using it for. So if I'm running a Hârn campaign using Rolemaster, it will feel like a Rolemaster game set in Hârn, not a Hârn game that happens to use Rolemaster. If that makes any sense.

I'm really into the magic system... it's one of my favourites. The spell list idea just makes sense, and it's pretty cool in play.

Chargen does take a while, as does leveling, especially in RMSS.

Both editions are really, really good. My preference is for RMC, but I'd play any edition RIGHT NOW. RMC/RM2 is lighter, but RMSS/RMFRP is very detailed. RMSS has some cool professions that RMC doesn't, but you could easily port them over. RMSS suffers from skill bloat, and the whole category vs. skill split is tedious when leveling up.

You could even get RM1e, which is very slim, about the size of a magazine for Character Law.

Finally, it is seriously deadly. I would advise incorporating a Fate Point mechanic of some kind unless you have a whole cadre of pregens. Your finely crafted 20th level fighter in full plate can be on the receiving end of a OHK from a crippled kobold if you're unlucky.

Also, don't forget to parry. o_O
 

David Johansen

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Don't be a tease, David; give Horus the link to your Arcane Confabulation game.

Horus, I detest RM but David's game (previously Dragon Shadowed Lands) made me sit up and seriously look into it.

Thanks for the plug. I've got a thread in the game design forum for discussing it. It very much came out of frustration with ICE and Rolemaster but even so, I still like Rolemaster, it's a unique experience that does what it does very well.

One note about combat and in particular parrying: It is absolutely vital that the Action Declaration phase is used before initiative. If you know your initiative order you can just parry with your whole skill any time you lose the initiative as can your foes and combat becomes pretty slow and dull until someone rolls a high open ended attack followed by a critical. Also, once the attack declarations are made and initiative is rolled everyone can make their attack roll and total their bonus and look up their results at the same time rather than in sequence. This parallel resolution is the key to running Rolemaster combat smoothly.
 

TheophilusCarter

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My first exposure was through MERP, or "RM2 Basic" as it's sometimes called, and I still think it's a great game. Later I moved into RM2, though I never got to play it much (no takers). I like RMC, which is basically a cleaned up RM2, and would still consider playing it with the right group. I appreciate the combination of classes and flexible skill development - not so rigid as the former, but not as susceptible to the "every character is the same" issue of some totally classless games. I like the conceptual simplicity of the system (it's easy as hell to understand and pickup), but with a nice level of detail and crunch. Combat is a blast, though I agree that a few Luck Points might be good to keep the PC insta-kills to a minimum. Chargen can take a while, though it gets easier and faster as you get some practice, and it's also just kinda fun, like its own mini-game, but I can also see how it would turn some folks off. I think it's just as playable now as it ever was, but it definitely doesn't seem to be suited to a lot of people's tastes these days.
 

David Johansen

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So here's my pitch for RMSS over RM2:

Who'd want to play Rolemaster to have less? RMSS is more of everything.
 

TheophilusCarter

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Because sometimes more of everything is too much! :grin: In all seriousness, I'm not familiar with RMSS, but when this comes up, it sounds to me like some folks prefer the not-too-much of RM2 / RMC. That's just going to be personal taste, of course.
 

David Johansen

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Admittedly, at one point The Arcane Confabulation or In The Shadow of Dragons as it was once known before that was the title for a popular D&D comic, was intended as a parody of Rolemaster which had a chart you rolled on to find out which chart to roll on.

The problem with RMSS is that the implementation was flawed and I believe deliberately so. The designers strongly favored the way it is set up and deliberately made it hard to integrate other methods. Back in the day I spent a great deal of time trying to get a working method that would allow skill categories or skills to be ignored. The problem is that the cultural and training packages don't match up the number of ranks in things. If they had, you could simply divide development point allotments by two or three and only apply that part of the package. Rather it was applied haphazardly. Making it impossible to fairly rescale things without recalculating the cost of each package all three ways. (yes you'd still need to change special and combined progression skills a bit either way)

Another problem is the sliding scales that were applied to race and training package costs. This meant that the more expensive they got the more they got discounted. While I'll agree that the high elves in Middle Earth should be badass, I will continue to insist that those who travelled to the blessed realm and returned in the war of the jewels should by no means be any lower level than twentieth. The racial advantage here is immortality and training at the hands of the Valar, not racial bonuses.
 

Spartan

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One note about combat and in particular parrying: It is absolutely vital that the Action Declaration phase is used before initiative. If you know your initiative order you can just parry with your whole skill any time you lose the initiative as can your foes and combat becomes pretty slow and dull until someone rolls a high open ended attack followed by a critical. Also, once the attack declarations are made and initiative is rolled everyone can make their attack roll and total their bonus and look up their results at the same time rather than in sequence. This parallel resolution is the key to running Rolemaster combat smoothly.

Excellent advice.
 

Spartan

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Because sometimes more of everything is too much! :grin: In all seriousness, I'm not familiar with RMSS, but when this comes up, it sounds to me like some folks prefer the not-too-much of RM2 / RMC. That's just going to be personal taste, of course.

Yeah, they're both great, and really not that different. It's not like going from one to the other would problematic for any RM player.

My ideal Rolemaster would me mostly RMC with the classes and development rules from RMSS. RMC includes a lot of RMSS as optional rules anyway. They could have just cleaned up RMC, added categories and whatnot as optional rules and called it good. No muss, no fuss. Nothing meaningful from RMSS would be missing. Add a Character Law II for any missing RMSS-ness, and everyone would have been happy. Well, as happy as Rolemaster grognards ever get.
 

David Johansen

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If you look at The Arcane Confabulation, you'll notice that I really like the categories :grin:

The thing is that they're somewhat redundant with profession bonuses but I don't really love profession bonuses or even professions as anything more than a list of skills associated with a job. I suggested dropping the professions for training packages but it wasn't well received. Actually the way I look at it is that RMSS models relationship between skills by shared knowledge (categories), vocational association (profession bonuses and costs), and talent / innate capacity (stat bonuses) which gives the skill system a great deal of depth. One minor way to change things up is to shift the whole unskilled penalty to either the skill or the category. Doing so really changes how important it is to buy ranks in both.
 
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