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Rolemaster, favorite game I've never played.


Better you better you bet
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Oh, and while some of the stuff in the Rolemaster Companions is awesome, it's not all awesome, it's not all mutually compatible, and some of it will blow up your game.

That said, I love reading them, but it's a lot easier not to include stuff in the first place, than it is to take it out after it goes sour.


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Awesome thread, lots of great advices!

I love Rolemaster and I've run it for many years in its various incarnations (it even inspired me into making my own game: Against the Darkmaster!), and I'd say the best advice I could give is to simply give it try. Lose the fear of tables and run a couple of sessions.
Yeah, you'll make mistakes, you'll forget to apply half of the rules and you'll have PCs dying horribly at the hands (paws?) of carnivourous flying squirrels, but it'll be fun, I promise!
And, with time, you'll get better at it! You'll remember to apply the rules, you'll learn how to keep the game going smoothly and organize the charts you'll be using most, and you won't have to pause the game (too much) to look for that Pummeling Critical Strike table that would be really cool to use in that particular situation...
Plus, you and your friends will soon find yourselves exchanging gloriously epic and bizzare tales about what happened in your games, like "do you remember when Xyz lost his hand against that Ordainer, but then the demon fumbled and knocked itself out, and we just stood there for 3 rounds laughing at it?"


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I love what's nowadays called RM2 or RMC, and it's a big part of why I moved away from AD&D 1e (Runequest being the other part, although I didn't really get into Runequest until III, when they moved away from the ties to Glorantha. Fucking ducks). I wasn't a fan of RMSS, because I found chargen too fiddly (unlike RM2, where I loved chargen and did it for fun), but opinions vary on that subject. On the charts, I think they're great and don't find them problematic, particularly not when the core rules are in pdf and I can just print out a bunch as I want. Some people hate the idea of charts (some people even disliked the resistance roll table in RQ because it's a chart); I don't have any problem with them, myself, but not everyone is me and just as well, there's only so much handsome the world can stand.
Most non-combat non-spellcasting rolls can be boiled down to either the original 101+ = success, or what the later tables went with, 76+ = partial success, 111+ = full success, depending on the table's preference. The 'static action' tables are completely and utterly optional. We never used them, and saw RMSS' provision of a separate one for each skill category as a waste of paper and creative effort. OTOH, we never saw a shiny new critical table we didn't want to try out. To each their own, I expect.


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I was a bit disappointed with School of Hard Knocks which basically just gives examples of various difficulty levels for skills but could have given much more on the process and effects of skill use. I did a couple articles for the Guild Companion on those lines but I'd become disillusioned with ICE by that point. Sadly the change in management didn't really improve my opinion there. Just lately I've been looking at my RM and SPAM stuff and sighing a lot but I just don't see any point in putting any effort into it. I've got my own games to work on and support. Still, Rolemaster holds a special place in my heart and I'll probably buy RMU when it comes out even though it's drifted very far from what I'd want it to be.

Endless Rain

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Then we played. He decided to start us off with a fight that he seemed to think would be fun and easy. All the PCs died in the first round. I didn't even get my turn before my character's neck got broken and he fell over and began to expire, although strangely he was the last to actually stop breathing.
What ultimately killed the game for me was the combination of extremely detailed character generation (up to 3 hours to create a character if you used the companions) and high lethality. 3 hours to create a character that could be killed in 30 seconds was completely unacceptable to me.
RM combat tends to randomly just kill PCs every so often, so some kind of meta-game mechanism to protect against that kind of bad luck is necessary if you want PCs to not 'just die'. Sooner or later, some mook will open-end a couple of times, then roll 96+ on the critical table and instantly kill a PC.

People point out that RM has plenty of livegiving and preserving herbs to get round this, and that is true. However, they are really expensive, to the point where someone who can afford them doesn't need to be adventuring.
Rolemaster is definitely extremely lethal. If you run it, you are going to need make it easier for PCs to be resurrected, especially at low levels where the lethality is highest. I'd cut the price for Lifegiving herbs (and possibly other medicinal herbs) until level 1 PCs can afford them, and remove the constitution check for Lifegiving.

I don't think adding meta-currency is either a good idea or an effective solution. Adding meta-currency can cause a lot of problems, and it won't even save PCs when they botch their rerolls, so at that point you'll need to make it easier to resurrect PCs anyway.


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The PCs really want to fight like Spec Ops operators - from surprise with maximum violence and intensity, keeping the fight length as short as possible.
I find players pick their fights very carefully in RM, I see this as a feature not a bug.
I really like the fact that I can use real world tactics and get real world results. (Unless I fumble, but that is a real world result too, isn't it? OK, not the tripping over an "invisible turtle" fumble...)
On the whole, I don't have a huge amount of confidence in new ICE's ability to bring a workable new edition to market, or that it'll be great, but I like the old edition anyhow so I don't need to wait for the one Rolemaster to rule them all. I do think that John Seal (the owner of the ICE IP) has his heart in the right place, however. Also, I love Shadow World, and Terry Amthor is still working on that (and I have a full collection of the ICE Middle Earth material: not the same as Tolkien's Middle Earth, but I think a lot better for RPGing in than the literary version).
I agree with all of this except the stuff about John. Basically I don't know the man, have never interacted with him, so I cannot say what is in his mind. But, the evidence of no game for the nearly 15-years it has been in development tells me he doesn't have it as any kind of priority.


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My group played RM/Shadow World and MERP heavily back in the 80s. While it was grand back then (in our minds) and a favorite system for customizing strange and interesting characters, I don't really think it(or its descendants) can compete with current RPG standards.

We started a campaign at level 3 and got all the way up to 50, IIRC. One of the original PCs actually made it the whole way, though there were many fatalities throughout the campaign. The character customization was fantastic. The open ended die rolling was fun, and having players roll crits was a blast. Different crit charts for different energy attacks (was in the Elemental companion, I believe) held huge entertainment value for the magey players. However players tended to hate the system when the crits broke the other way, which was often. A lowly orc comes along, gets lucky and bang. Dead PC. Plus the amount of player options became unwieldy as you advanced. The main PC pure spellcaster actually had a massive character folio booklet that listed the insane number of spells that he had access to, and sometimes it would take a half hour of his reading all his spell lists to come up with what he wanted to do for the round. Ah, gaming in the 80s.

Even if you have people familiar with the system, combat encounters can tend to drag on quite a bit. One of the strengths of the original game (tons of player options) actually worked against you when you had to stop every round because of a spell/item question and figure out just which Companion that weapon or spell or whatever was in. Even back when it was our favorite system, we knew that it was fiddly and topheavy. The players called it "Chartmaster".

While some of my fondest gaming memories were in running RM campaigns, it doesn't hold any appeal for me to revisit the system. And to be quite honest I've lost track of all the different flavors/versions of RM past the originals in the 80s (1e and 2e). I'm happy to keep RM in a little pocket of amber-tinged memories of yesteryear.


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"Chart Master" never bothered me but "Rulesmaster" is unreasonable and unfair as any edition of D&D except Basic or OD&D has more rules.


Oiled Greek Wrestler
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For a while I thought RoleMaster was making an attempt at "coming back", although by riding on a nostalgia wave (RMX, RMC). But then the company went pear-shaped and not a lot since then.

I liked the simplified version that RMX provided almost better than MERP. Between that and the other editions, there was the possibility of some BRP-like cherry-picking. Or at least look at RMX, who also tried to make the first level(s) a bit more survivable.

Soylent Green

Polar Blues
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One of my friends during high school was super into Rolemaster, but didn't get to play for a while. He kept buying more and more books until he had this pile almost a foot tall. He kept suggesting that we play, but no one but him was really interested.

Eventually we were bored and let him run a game. With a table full of totally new players and no one to walk us through, stacks of options, and only one of each book, it took us hours to make characters. It was a long and tedious process that involved a lot of sitting and waiting for someone to be done with a book.

Then we played. He decided to start us off with a fight that he seemed to think would be fun and easy. All the PCs died in the first round. I didn't even get my turn before my character's neck got broken and he fell over and began to expire, although strangely he was the last to actually stop breathing.

All the players were just staring at the GM. Saying nothing. He giggled nervously, and he's not the nervous giggling type. Then we all piled out character sheets and books into the middle of the table and never spoke of Rolemaster ever again.
I think every gamer has their own version of this story. Mine was with Runequest. Hours spent creating characters only to get wiped out at the first encounter in the Big Rubble. It's a rite of passage.

But it is also important for GM to aware of their limitations. It takes a very organised and focused GM to run a crunchy system well, especially if it's also leathal. It is easy to get excited by the cool stuff the extra crunch brings but you really have to think about the practicalities of running the game.
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