kingtycoon: (blue)
Do you dare to face the dangers of Evil Channeling section 2, subsection 8, sub-subsection 1?

If so you are probably crazy, or a Hobbit. Since Hobbits have +100 to resist channeling. If you understood that you are a liar as no race has any bonus to resist the realm of channeling! Fibber!

Since I decided that I'd review all the games in my house (there are a lot) I guess I am somewhat obligated to look at Rolemaster, just based on the real-estate it commands on my shelves
Role master!

But now that I think about it - I don't know what I can say about Rolemaster that hasn't been said before or at least erroneously believed by bitter, bitter haters fearful of the notorious charts.

Among the gamers of a certain vintage RM has a reptutation for being replete with too many charts, too many rules and a very convoluted system of character generation.  I'd say 2 of those 3 statements are incorrect.  I'll elaborate.

Back when D&D meant Dungeons and Dragons and wasn't just the Kleenex, JellO or Bandaids of the hobby - there were rather many of us who mutinied against its numerous, egregious failings.  I'm sure there are many people migrating out of the current iteration of the flagship of the hobby - but back when you could flee and flee TSR's monster but you couldn't run farther than Rolemaster and still be rolling dice with your friends on the weekends.

Rolemaster  has a deep - I'll say - intentionality to it.  There's nothing in it that seems purely whimsical, nothing included without a sincere thought given to balance, design and an end result.  That's really at odds with D&D which has so many examples of just crazy-DM fiat rulings codified into canon on the spur of the moment.  "Uhhh...  No, you don't hit him with magic missile!  It's a... special monster, it...  Resists Spells.  Yeah, that's it!"

There's none of that in Rolemaster and back in the 80's that was a huge delight - consistency in the ruleset!  Coherent linear development!  No pointless, reductionist reliance on class abilities and restrictions!  I think I was sold completely on Rolemaster the second I realized that in a RM campaign a wizard could wear armor and pick pockets!  And really, why shouldn't he?  He's a wizard, and a Wizard steals exactly what he wants to.  But that was all then - what's up with now?  Do I like this game?  Do I just have mindless nostalgia for it?

Yes, also No.  RM is great.  The page-long attack charts for each type of weapon - painstakingly devised to realistically demonstrate the effects of different types of armors is the centerpiece of the whole game.  There's a lot to love besides Arms Law (even just calling the rulebooks blah-blah LAW is great).  The weird fixation on rolling natural 66 on the percentile is a funny affectation is wonderful.  The simplistic class/race/level system you find in most games is totally subverted and overcome by the really sophisticated/wonderful skills system which still integrates the less significant character points of race (where you from?) class (what's your job?) and level (are you good at it?).  There's better and more than that too - the initiative system that was printed in Rolemaster Companion IV is probably the best that's been printed, the sophisticated, elaborate rules for how to have assymetrical fights between halberd-wielders and swordsmen, or marksmen and wizards - it's never just "You go on 12, what do you do on 12?"  It's so, so much better than that.  It's basically the best.  Mostly.

Lion man!

There's weird things too and some bad things as well.  On the cover of my Standard Rules there's this picture of a Lion-Man wearing brown slacks and a red t-shirt.  There's no place in the rules at all where you can make a casually dressed Lion-Man.  It's just straight up false - there are no lion-men and casual dress is so subjective.  I mean - the Lion-Man is standing next to a mohawk-elf wearing thigh-high calfskin boots - so contextually a red t-shirt might be the garb of a holy-man or something.  It's weird is what I'm saying.

Mechanically though, there are problems, but I kind of think that that Lion-Man is the worst thing about the game.  Eff you Lion-Man - you are not in the rules.

The mechanical problems of the game from worst to most problematic:

1 - Percentile - the big spread on the dice means a level of randomness that most people will equate to swimming uphill.  My d00's have always been nice to me so I don't mind, but there's a lot of randomness and the dice explode both ways - so that's a potentially unlimited - infinite, if you will - variation on the die rolls. 

2 - The Charts:


What's really weird is how many people considered me to be a satanist or something (Hi Mom!) when I was a kid because I liked playing these games so much.  I mean - shit, all the other teens were out stealing cars and getting DNA all over each other and I was in my basement poring over... actuarial tables?  True story - from 1988-1992 I got together with friends every weekend to do elaborate math problems and tell stories about beating up spider-worshipers.  I think it's the 'worship' that sticks and the 'math problems' that are overlooked by the morally panicky.

Now, you must have noticed that I really like this game - so the charts don't bother me - but I know that they scare off most other players.  Looking at these books and finding no rules for being a Lion-Man but page upon page of numbered, indexed charts?  I get it.  You just wanted to be a Lion-Man and here you are with a bachelors of science in statistics.  Statistically, life is unfair.

3 - Spell Law.  You know - at first it seems like the great big thick book of sweet, sweet magic tricks that you and your friends can 'imagination' on each other is the best thing since those weird barrel-shaped d20's you found - but after playing a while you start to really, really get confused, frustrated and sometimes table-flipping-crosseyed-samurai angry.  For example - let's say, like me, you play a Lay Healer.  Despite the name being purely a disappointment (think less Marvin Gaye and more church usher) the Lay Healer is Soopa-Kool.  My guy was an ace at doing operations on guys - he never touched the sides and could even do medical procedures with no hands by just squinting hard.  Psychic surgeon sounds rad?  It is.  It's just confusing!  Does Knowing the Prosthetics Law Lay-Healer Base List to level 20 let me legally attach 30 extra Eog Limbs to myself?  Cause I think I can!  Does having a +85 Directed Spells bonus and a lot of anatomical knowledge let me use Telekinesis IV to put enough pressure on someone's heart that they die?  I think I can!  The rules...  The rules don't say otherwise.  Of the hundreds and hundreds of spells in Spell Law I think about 5 of them have a description that breaks the 1 sentence mark.  It's all open to interpretation (read - abuse) and that's fruster-atin.  All I'm say-in.

Should you play this game?  Constantly.  You should play this game.  You should come over and make characters, we'll make a weekend of it!  Pack jammies and extra pizza $ - cause you'll be staying a while.  Of course, once you get through the famously convoluted character generation  - you're on to smooth sailing, the game plays nice & easy when you're in the hands of an experienced player (They don't call me a 'Lay' Healer for nothing) and the charts become just a pleasing footnote to epic adventure. 

12 year old me would give this a Caster-Level of 100 using the Gas Destruction Sorcer Base List 3.7.3 - but for your edification now?  I say it's got a Spell Level of 8 - right up there With Symbol of Insanity


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