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Rolemaster Express Review [The grubman saga]

grubman

Grubby Smelly Gnome
Validated User
Introduction

Recently I decided to give Rolemaster Express a look. I read various threads dealing with the ins and outs, but, noticed there was no review of the game to be found.

I decided I would be the perfect (;)) person to do the review as I can give a pretty unbiased review of the game, not being a fanboy of Rolemaster or ICE. But why bother with a normal review? (That is for people that aren’t attention whores!)

As I’ve just started reading the rules I thought it might be fun to do an entire thread documenting not only a review of the game, but the opinions, deductions, and problems of a typical gamer (that’s me) as he reads and attempts to gronk a new game for the first time.

I plan to contribute a step by step review of what I read and absorb day by day (and I’m going to take it slow, since I’m very busy). Then I plan to go into any opinions I might have of that, and ask any questions I may have of the fine people reading. Following that I hope to see any other discussion on the topic at hand (usually a chapter of the rules).

I hope to end the whole shebang with a playtest of the game and an actual play report (my group willing). Not sure if I will use the sample adventure (haven’t read it yet) or write one of my own.

My Hopes of this thread

I hope this thread provides an interesting read and I hope it educates those curious about Rolemaster Express (and ultimately Rolemaster) as I learn the system myself.

I’m also doing this for the self centered reason that I want to really put an effort into absorbing and appreciating the material. It is too easy in this day and age to simply pick up a RPG book, give it a casual read or skim, and toss it aside as soon as something looks bad, or becomes difficult to comprehend. In the “old days” I didn’t have the money I have now, so I used to give every RPG product I purchased rigorous use, even if everything about the game wasn’t “perfect” in my mind…and it often lead to some really good gaming I wouldn’t have experienced if I just gave up, or prematurely decided the game wasn’t for me. This thread is part of a personal RPG “self help” program, much like 101 days of Savage Worlds :)

I hope the readers and participants in this thread will read along, contribute to the “topic of the day” and ask or answer questions. I would appreciate it if the thread stayed fairly focused (not going off on huge tangents, or discussing parts of the game that haven’t been covered yet). I would also appreciate it if venomous haters didn’t stop by to flame just for flame sake. By all means, if you have problems or negative comments based on experience share them…but if it’s simply to stop by and crap on Rolemaster (or me personally), please move on. There are plenty of other threads to express hate, and I’m honestly trying to do something productive here for the RPG community as well as myself.

My Background (or lack of) with Rolemaster

Rolemaster is one of the few “old school” games that I’ve never really checked out before. Usually, I simply cracked a book in the game store, saw all those tables, and put it back. In this review I hope to find out if it is truly as (overly) complicated as I always thought it was…or if appearances can be deceiving.

So, I’ve never read or owned Rolemaster in any of its incarnations. A friend owned Arms Law way in the day before there was a Rolemaster game system of its own. We used the critical and fumble charts for a couple sessions of D&D, and all I can remember was tripping over an invisible turtle.

I owned MERP in the 80s (what could be better than a RPG based on the book that defined fantasy for me and got me interested in role playing in the first place?), gave it a read, didn’t really gronk it and stuck to AD&D. I had a friend who ran me through a singe game session once. I played a Dwarf Fighter (who had a few useless spells) running through the mines of Moria. It took me a long time to create the character, and the GM ran the adventure “by the book”. Basically I spent about 2 hours (real time) mapping out one empty room after another. I got to use a few skills along the way, but never even got to fight a Goblin.

I purchased HARP when it came out. Clumsily ran a couple short sessions, and haven’t played it since. One of the players in my current group plays HARP with another group, hates the “number crunching”, and had no desire to try it again, so HARP has a nice dusty spot on my game shelf. Beautiful books, but a system I don’t have much experience with in actual play.

In other words, I have no bias either way (toward Rolemaster), good or bad. I’m a fairly “generic” gamer, keep up with the current trends and changes, and tend to try and remain open minded about most things in our hobby (most).

Rolemaster Express, here I come!
 

Nero's Boot

Yeah, it's like that
I'm a big Rolemaster fan. A very cool guy named Emmet introduced me to it, and ran a spectacular campaign using it. I enjoyed myself so much in that game, I went out and purchased a whole butt-load of Rolemaster products.

Despite what you may think, Rolemaster is actually not that complex. Emmet never had a problem keeping combat running smoothly, and I groked the game mechanics with surprising ease. Attributes are percentile-based, whereas skills have levels. Skills come in either skill categories or skills themselves. Raising a skill category raised all the skills associated with it, but the cheaper method is just to raise individual skills. Levels are used, as are character classes; however, multiclassing is really unnecessary, because every character can get any skill or skill category. Every character class comes with its own XP chart, explaining exactly how much archery would cost a summoner, or a fighter to learn Essence-channeling.

The magic system is nice. Spells come in "lists," which, if you're an oWoD gamer, are much like Disciplines Cainites use. Magic is treated as a skill for XP purposes.

--really, Rolemaster has an unfairly-deserved reputation in gaming circles NB
 

grubman

Grubby Smelly Gnome
Validated User
Let me start off with my quick (appearance skim of the book (well, PDF :D)) and the introductory chapter today. I'm going to experiment with some die rolling today, and then read the next (long) chapter and create a character before writing tomorrows entry:

Where do I get it?

Role Master Express is an 88 page soft cover book that sells for $10 also available as a 90 page PDF for $5. There are also currently 3 expansion PDFs available (more on those (much) later). All of these are available from Iron Crown Enterprises, better known as ICE: http://store.ironcrown.com/category.jsp?category=162527

Appearance

(Based on the PDF at this time, further details on the hardcopy will be added when available)

RMX is an 88 page game book, full color cover and black and white interior. Like all ICE products of late, it is an attractive package boasting high quality artwork in an easy to read and reference (by the look of it) format.

The cover is an attractive black base, featuring a good graphic design, and 3 pictures that are derived from the covers of the Rolemaster Classic core books.



The interior is black and white with adequate illustrations to make it pleasing to look at, but not so many that it distracts from the text or product. There are a lot of tables and charats.

It is double collum with clearly separated chapters and headings, and an easy to read font (probably a 9 or 10 point).

The table of contents seems pretty complete, making it easy to see where everything is, and the index looks very good too (although time will tell).

Rolemaster Express (RMX), Reviewed by the chapter.

1.0 Introduction

What are we talking about?


Rolemaster Express (RMX) is a complete concise fantasy RPG system based on the Rolemaster game system.

What is its purpose?

The focus on the game (other than providing a fully playable RPG system) is to provide an introduction to the more detailed and complex Rolemaster system and to provide an entry into the hobby on the cheap.

The rules are streamlined and slightly modified to make the game easier to play and simpler to understand than the core Rolemaster system. It is designed to be a solid introductory game for the beginning role player, and a viable rules “medium” game for experienced players.

The core game can be expanded in two ways. The first is to purchase the Express Additions (I see 3 currently available) while the second is to advance to the full Rolemaster game system…or you can simply stick with RMX as is.

Dice!

The last thing the introduction covers is die rolling conventions. For all practical purposes this indicates the “core “ resolution mechanic.

RMX is a percentile based system. The game uses only 10 sided dice. These are mostly used to roll percentiles (1-100).

Some rolls are open ended. When you roll the d100, and roll very good or very poor you roll again and add or subtract the number from the first roll. At first I thought, “Oh gawd what a pain! Math!” Then I started to think that this won’t really happen that often (a 10% chance per roll, to be specific). Not only that, these low or high open ended rolls are in instances of great success or failure…so, much like attaining a crit or fumble in another system, it will actually probably be exciting to see the result of the second roll and take the time to do the math…for better or worse.

There are also a few other uses like the standard d10 roll, or multiples of the d10 roll (such as 5d10). There are a few that strike me as a bit clunky, and I’m surprised that they are included, such as the 1-8, 1-5, and 2-10 rolls which require you to do a bit of quick math with a d10 roll (or two). Of course anyone with an 8 sided die could use it for the 1-8.

If I was to really nitpick, I would say that the picture on page 5, while nice, is a little goofy to look at because the (in game) woman looking in the mirror at her (out of gamer) self isn’t reflected properly, she’s backwards.
 

bottg

Registered User
Validated User
I have been a Rolemaster player for nearly 2 decades, but i also realise it has a reputation for complexity.

It will be very interesting to see what your conclusions are, and also what others contribute.
 

JJH

Middle Aged Gamer
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Cool Idea, Grubman. I look forward to following the thread.
 

Lazarus

Esoom G Noj
Validated User
Awesome. It's, like, "Let's Read!" (variant of the Let's Play thing going on in Video Games now :p)

Laz
 
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