Monday, April 19, 2010

Rolemaster's Most Popular Parts

A couple of my players have expressed an interest in trying Rolemaster again. The two in question were in the last Rolemaster campaign we ran, and both of their characters tried pretty horribly, if I recall (though in at least one of the two cases, not without serving a noble cause).

The funny thing of it is, that Rolemaster campaign had the worst campaign creation session ever. I did a very explanatory, step-by-step guide, and allotting skill points and the like still took hours. We didn't finish until the wee hours of the morning, and one girl who hated any sort of math probably wanted to shoot me. But even with all the rough parts, the lethality, and everything, that's probably still the most popular campaign I've run. They went crazy for critical hits. The liked the point-buy nature of skills, and how any class could buy anything (but at what cost?). They loved the idea that nothing, no matter how improbable, was totally impossible, thanks to the open-ended nature of the dice mechanic.

Of course, Rolemaster Classic is a bit more toned down and byzantine than the Rolemaster FRP/SS hybird we used, which is what I'd be using to run it again. But I'll likely still strip out some of the maneuvering rolls, temporary stat totals, and a few other bits. My players just want the critical hit charts, the spell and skill system, and the open-ended percentile rolls. In my opinion, those are the best things Rolemaster has going for it, and why some of my friends still want to return to it.

One of the great things about Rolemaster is that you can pretty much use what you want out of it. It's durable and modular, as befits its history--as I've said before, you take the portion you want. If I do end up running it with that group (I've been doing an online game of RM with some old friends as well, but that's for later discussion), I'll make sure I publish my mods for Rolemaster. Like Traveller character generation, I consider taking or doling out a critical hit from Rolemaster Arms Law a rite of passage in the hobby.


spw said...

I couldn't agree more with you about critical hits - our group still quotes one character death at the hands of a zombie 15 years after it happened.

Greyaxe said...

Rolemaster is the best RPG system I have ever used. I find our group uses it exclusively and it fits into virtually any genre. My crew does the math very quickly and as we game exclusively with Rolemaster, and some Palladium, they know the system back and fourth and often suggest solutions how they can get away with it; whatever 'it' may be. Rolemaster's great strength in my opinion is genre independence. I recently read Nightmares of Mine; an ICE product giving you a variety of tips for the Horror genre. I found, more than an education on Horror Troupe, it offered a great example how you can take the RMSS and with a bit of analysis and creativity apply it to any Genre. The weapon tables in my opinion can be reduced to a handful of charts, (Combat Companion anyone) and the system can add multiple attacks and or division of activity to accomplish several actions in a single round. The one issue most of my players have is the comprehension that the “strike” represents the best opportunity for a kill or subdual in the 10 second melee. The are too accustomed to the, “ …I shoot him in the head called strike”, of so many other systems. Otherwise, like your observation, my group goes gaga over the open-ended rolls, fumbles and massive successes. The Go Big or Stay Home feel is very much the Rolemaster experience.

Stargazer said...

The greatest mistake anyone can make is use all the Rolemaster rules as printed. Then RM becomes extremely rules-heavy and unwieldly. But if you pick and choose the rules you want to use it's a lot of fun.

And I definitely agree with you about the critical hit tables, they are just awesome! We had a lot of fun with those back in the day. :)

faustusnotes said...

I tried re-running rolemaster last year, after a 10 year break from 5 years of continuous use, and it was nowhere near as good as I recalled. The players complained that every crit was the same (-20 to activity!) and I was not as competent at managing all the tables as before, which is a real turn off.

I have often thought you could reduce RM's difficulty considerably by
- dividing the tables by 5, so that they run on d20s
- grouping crits together so there are less of them, and writing them only as the stat effects (act. penalties, etc.) and insisting the DM invent the description of the crit
- changing the base spell rules to use 1 roll, not 86000
- simplifying Manoeuvre rolls (don't know how)
- having MERP style weapons tables
- not having 3 crits for one spell (although that was worlds of fun)

For me now RM has become an oddity, a kind of pure utopian game which drives my interest in finding a better system than D&D but isn't in itself much use. But it's absolutely the system I remember most fondly.

Charles said...

I was in the same situation. I tried running a RM game after a many year hiatus. It crashed an burned under the weight of the tables.

... and that is how I left it , for many years...

...until a few weeks ago, I started a d20 game using Spell Law, Arms Law critical hits, and Character Law Background tables. It's working pretty well. d20 combat is fast and familiar, and the Arms Law critical hits add the flavor of Rolemaster.

We've played three sessions, and so far it's been pretty entertaining. There are some small things I'd change if I were to start over, but all in all it's working.

Here's a LINK to some conversion notes I typed up. They are mostly current, but there has been some give and take with the players that I haven't recorded yet.

Stargazer said...

I can also recommend HARP from ICE. It's almost like a Rolemaster light. It has a lot of what made RM cool, but with less cruch.

Zachary The First said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

I’ve found Rolemaster pretty easy to modify into a simpler game. Don’t use maneuvers for everything (keep it to skills and attacks rolls), cut out the temporary stats, and play Rolemaster Classic instead (the skills are a bit simpler).

Really, just use the parts you like. Using all of Rolemaster can be a lot like using all of GURPS.

Andreas Davour said...

I have many fond memories of MERP/RM, since it is what I first ran myself.

That being said, these days I want games where it's easy to make character and quickly whip up a npc. That's my main problem with RM these days.

I have been thinking of using the RMFRP hit and crit tables, and using the skill categories only as skills. But, still It would take a while to make characters.

Sari said...

Hi there!
Just stopped by to send you this link:
When I saw Rolemaster in it, I knew I should send this to you, as a fellow rolemaster.