Thursday 30 November 2017

A Not-so-Tangential Leap: Archetypal Packages for Professions and Cultures

I've been participating in an interesting conversation over at The RolemasterBlog about the best way of representing variation within and between Rolemaster professions. I put forward the idea of a mild union between d20 and RM: namely, using unique talents/abilities in the manner of Pathfinder classes whilst retaining the primacy of the skill/list structure.

The following options are archetypal packages for several species of Ranger, Bard and Barbarian, with a few cultural packages (Wood Elf and Urban Poor) thrown in for good measure. They're built for Rolemaster Classic, and based on the notion that whilst the chosen 'parent' profession provides a set of development costs, spell lists (where appropriate) and level bonuses, these are malleable according to the archetype chosen. Cultural packages are based on the 'No Profession' development costs.

I'm taking a few liberties with the core rules, as well: I'm allowing 'rapid skill development' to include up to four ranks per level, and to allow for a certain level of specialisation, there are 20 'points' that may be used to alter a few skill development costs. Each archetype has access to unique skill-related 'skill unlocks', based on the amount of ranks they have in particular skills. Every package is built using the Flat Development Point rules from RMC Character Law  (though with 50 DPs rather than the usual 40 DPs per level), whereas cultural packages are built using 100 DPs. Finally, each archetype is associated with a pool of talents that are only accessible to those choosing to follow the archetype.

It should also be noted that these archetypal packages are not intended to be an adjunct to normal character development. Ideally, they'd replace apprenticeship development at level one, whilst race/culture packages replace adolescence development. (For the uninitiated, 1st level characters in 2nd edition Rolemaster and Rolemaster Classic spend two levels' worth of development points at level one, divided into adolescence and apprenticeship). Characters can still develop in a unique way at first level due to the use of Hobby Skills and Background Options, and after level one, players are free to develop in whatever way they wish, within the parameters of their profession's conventional limits. One nice outcome of using this system is that first level characters are more well-rounded and more competent in areas often neglected while they concentrate on maximizing combat or magical capabilities.

Finally, I've altered some of the more overpowered Background Options - no instant lists to 50th level with no ESF mods - replacing them with their less unbalancing RMFRP equivalents.

The relevant document  - very much a work-in-progress - may be found here. This document outlines an optional rules framework and gives an example with the Primal Ranger, a variant whose abilities lie principally in a mystical bond with nature and are expressed through meditation and frenzy. Further updates to the document should such as the above mentioned cultural packages and the Botanist Ranger should be added soon.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Crossing The Abyss III: Skills, Spells and the Deductionist

Getting back to my attempted conversion of the Deductionist, I promised a look at skill conversions. In order to do this, we need to decide which RM system we're using, or if we're using more than one! Pathfinder uses somewhere between 30 and 40 skills (depending on whether or not one applies one or more of the various options in Pathfinder Unchained). Rolemaster Classic uses somewhere in the vicinity of 70-80 skills, or, if using only 'Primary Skills', about 30. RMFRP, including the skills from the various Companions offers hundreds, although organised in Skill Categories to reduce - a bit -  paperwork. 2nd Edition Rolemaster has a similar amount (disclosure: RM2 is my favourite iteration of Rolemaster, although much of my work on this blog will be for RMFRP). I'm going to look at both RMFRP and RM2 for the purposes of this discussion. It looks as if,  in many instances, its going to be the case that the Pathfinder skill will have multiple equivalents - or that multiple skills might be needed to approximate the functions of a particular skill. This isn't as problematic as it sounds, as players have far more points to spend on skills in Rolemaster - which is, after all, a skills-based system - compared with Pathfinder players.

We can at least glean the skills at which the Deductionist is more likely to excel by looking at the Deductionist's list of Class Skills. It's worth noting at this point that there are multiple variations of the Deductionist according to areas of specialisation. The Vicar, for example, specialises in religious matters. So we'll actually be looking at a base set of skill costs with variations according to area of concentration. Plenty to do.

I've put together a rather ad hoc list purporting to link Pathfinder skills to their multifarious Rolemaster equivalents, and this is the basis for the discussion that follows. But first, it should be mentioned that there are considerable differences between 2nd edition Rolemaster and RMFRP when it comes to skills. Both use hundreds of skills, but in RM2 each skill has its own associated development cost, whereas in RMFRP, skills are organised into categories (each of which has a development cost), whereby the category and the subskills are developed. In this post, I'll start with RMFRP, for reasons of economy.

Comparing the Deductionist's class skills with the RMFRP skill categories, we can make a few assumptions: the Deductionist is strong with regard to Influence skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, etc.), Lore skills (Pathfinder Knowledge skills), Awareness skills (Perception) and Subterfuge skills (Disable Device, Stealth, Sleight of Hand, etc.). We can safely surmise that the cost of these categories will be lower than for most RMFRP professions (whilst being mindful that the Deductionist will probably not be the equal of the Thief in Subterfuge skills, the Sage in Lore and Science skills or the Seer in Awareness skills). We can add to this the notion, previously discussed, that a good 'Will' save might be reflected in good Self Control skills, whilst the Deductionist's 'poor' Reflex and Fortitude saves may have analogies in lower Athletic skills and Body Development. it's worth noting, at this point, that both RMFRP and RM2 have the Surveillance skill - compulsory for all Deductionists - which not only allows for long-term perception, but also allows the character a roll to determine the best means or method for solving a crime.

At this point, it must be said: the Deductionist's abilities do not lend themselves to the easy creation of spell lists. To incorporate these unique abilities, I propose simulating them through the use of skills and of talents specific to the Deductionist.

In RM2, each skill has its own individual cost: this makes the task of conversion in some senses easier, as particular skills are not shoehorned into categories, and RM2 has a number of optional skills - such as Resistance - that we may incorporate in search of a more accurate conversion. There are also some more 'cinematic' skill applications that lend themselves to simulating the Deductionist's abilities. I'll be posting full conversion documents over the next couple of weeks.

Saturday 25 November 2017

What Was Shroudfall?

Shroudfall is the name given to the great sorcerous disaster that occurred over one thousand years ago. Although the exact nature of the event and its genesis are unknown, what is known is that the Elven Prince Morhgaray of the land of Aeledorin (destroyed in the disaster, it lay far to the east), in a fit of great despair after slaying his human brother-in-law – an act which led to his wife’s suicide – somehow opened a planar gateway to a dark realm hitherto unknown, and the resultant influx of magical energy caused a cataclysm of global proportions.

The doorway that Morhgaray opened released a vast roiling cloud of rainbow-bright chaotic power, which then propagated itself and spread across the globe by means of the famed Elvengates (a network of teleportals), destroying ancient cities and laying waste to nations. The very earth heaved and groaned under the irresistible might of the Shroud, and storms of horrific power swept across the face of the world. Only where the Elvengates did not reach – or where the magic seals were reinforced and stayed shut – was there comparative relief from the world-shattering power of the Shroud. In the New Kingdoms, three key gates held, but several others did not, leading directly to the collapse of Seyeren rule in the east and the Kolsec Empire in the west. In the wake of the catastrophe came plague, famine and war, unravelling much of what had survived the initial disaster. For over three hundred years, there was little but chaos across most of the world, and contact was completely lost between the eastern and western hemispheres.

When the much-reduced bastions of civilisation had recovered and stabilised somewhat, exploration took place as attempts were made to reach out from the isolated islands of order and rebuild the world anew. But it was found that it was no longer possible to travel to the east. A vast rift of Shroud now stood like a living barrier between the two halves of the world – although none were able to draw near what has become known as the Veil, for it was found that well before the Veil could be reached, the world assumed an aspect of deep gloom, where the sun shone for only the barest moments in the far west before vanishing, and the land rippled like water, earth and rocks were ripped from the ground and tossed skyward in horrendous gales, and the oceans vanished into hurricanes of varicoloured vapour. Of all who have dared to pass this point and reach the Veil, not one has returned. So only the testimony of the Twilit Lands – where the earth and ocean are steadily decaying into the stuff of pure Chaos, and the stars are slowly devoured by the great disc of the Veil – tells of what may lie further beyond.
Picture by Jeff Brown

Nonetheless it is known that the lands of the east also survived the carnage of Shroudfall, for on occasion seers and priests have received visions and communications from those who dwell there still. It is said that some parts of the east survived Shroudfall in much the same way as did the New Kingdoms, but that they are under assault from powerful enemies that they name the Shroudborn and the Shroudsworn, and it is feared that they cannot hold. It is also known that the east too has its Twilit Lands, and it is thought by dark prophets that these regions of despair and horror are spreading on both sides of the Veil and that ultimately, all the world shall be consumed, that the respite after Shroudfall was a doom postponed, not avoided. On this, the Gods are silent, and the knowledge of mortals inadequate.

Yet most do not believe these fatalistic oracles, for Shroudfall is a millennium in the past, and the Veil and Twilit Lands many months travel from the surviving nexus of civilisation. Folk carry on their lives, seeking as they always have to build little empires and play their games of power or faith, or merely to survive. The Shroud is seldom mentioned, save as a reminder of woes surmounted. And none can say which side is in the right.

Thursday 23 November 2017

The Protectors of Chelmsey

Chelmsey’s history has left it with a fascinating legacy, and a certain uniqueness: there can be few villages of similar size or similarly isolated that can be home to such a concentration of potent individuals. All the participating organisations in the struggle to cap the Chaos Well retain an interest in Chelmsey. They have several reasons for this: they worry that their success is temporary, and that the chaotic energies will eventually overwhelm the sorcerous wards that imprison it. Their larger concern, however, is that powers inimical will seek to somehow exploit the Well. So it is that each of the major participants maintain ‘observers’ in Chelmsey. Most of these folk are part of village life – the local Priest of Vlynn, for example – but some are not so open about their true role and capabilities. There are also some who visit the village frequently but irregularly and keep their role secret...for their own dark purposes.

There is only one temple – that of Vlynn – found in the village, although there are worshippers of other faiths there. The local priest of Vlynn, Gedner Hallop, is privy to all matters regarding the Chaos Well, and is charged by his church with the business of checking the Well – daily – and keeping a strict record of all activity in the village, by both locals and visitors. He is much more capable than would ordinarily be expected in such a small, out-of-the-way setting, but keeps most of his powers hidden.

Hallop is not the leader of those responsible for preserving Chelmsey, however. The Church of Jureus bore the brunt of the losses involved in the capping of the Well, and it is their representative, Vatash Kerrinson who has the honour of that burden. Seemingly no more than a weaver, he is in fact a talented spy and devout initiate of his faith. Only his fellow observers know his true role. To the villagers, he is simply a local craftsman – new to the village (if ten years residence constitutes ‘new’) – and somewhat more private than his fellows.

There are two other residents charged with watching over the village: one is Harotanu, an element-touched shepherd and hunter who patrols the village hinterland, and the other is the Shrine-keeper Yalden Ralm. A true polytheist, he tends the three local shrines to faiths other than that of Vlynn.

Unbeknownst to all of the observers – although Vatash Kerrinson has many suspicions – there is another observer of good will in Chelmsey. This is the ‘retired’ mage, Ortyn of Heth. Ortyn poses as a scholar-politician seeking a quiet life after the travails of life in the capital. This is superficially true, but he chose retirement in Chelmsey at the behest of his wizardly order, the Order of the Owl, where he too could maintain a watch on the Chaos Well.

The final ‘observers’ are two intermittent visitors: the itinerant minstrel Crado and the pedlar Visp Gardel. Both these wanderers are in the employ of darker forces: Crado is an agent of the exiled usurper Mandrekorian (who hopes to somehow use the Well in a scheme to regain his lost throne), whilst Visp is an initiate of the dark god Modrus. Both have thus far avoided discovery, but Harotanu loathes and fears the charming Crado, whilst Yalden Ralm has severe doubts about the sneering Visp.

I'll be looking into presenting these folk - and other local notables from Chelmsey - as stat blocks for RMFRP/2nd ed. RM/Pathfinder and whatever else I feel like (if I feel like it), over the next few weeks.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

A Brief Guide As To What To Expect

As the New Kingdoms campaign has evolved over the last three decades, there have been a number of changes: the greatest was the shift from RM 2nd edition to RMFRP. When this occurred in our group, we switched over, root and branch – although I was sad to see the end of 2nd edition. I then ported over much of what I did not wish to lose from 2nd edition and spent plenty of time on conversions – professions, races, spell lists and optional rules. Now, with the new Rolemaster looming, my group has moved again, using the Beta playtest rules: you can register as a member and download copies of these at the ICE forums.

I’m left, therefore, with a huge body of work that – once again – is a bit obsolete. In some sense much of the current material for this blog is a legacy project, and when the new rules are released, will be superseded and updated, but the themes will remain the same: bringing the system into harmony with the setting, and vice versa. I stress however, that where setting conflicts with system, it is the system that I modify wherever possible. I’m happy doing a certain amount of violence to the rules in order that the New Kingdoms remain as originally conceived.

So you’ll see references to spell lists, optional rules and professions that don’t exist in RMFRP. I’ll post the profession conversions from time to time, but due to IP considerations, I won’t be able to reproduce the spell lists. I will always, however, reference the source. For instance, I retained the elements from the 2nd edition Elemental Companion and some of the professions and lists. Here and there among the talents and race/culture guides those lists will be mentioned, but you’ll need to track the source down, if you don’t already have it. Where feasible, I’ll offer RMFRP alternatives.

Monday 20 November 2017

Making More Of Talents

In the previous post, I made mention of some new talents and promised to elaborate, so here goes... But first, a bit of preamble: one of the things I really like about Pathfinder is the archetype system, whereby different abilities of a class are swapped out or modified to reflect a variation on the core theme of a class. I sought to incorporate something similar in my RMFRP campaign, but soon decided that I didn’t really want to spend time modifying the skill costs of RMFRP professions (or designing new training packages which fulfill an archetype-like function). Instead, I settled on a simpler solution: creating a wider role for talents. In addition to creating a whole bunch of new talents, and sourcing more, I compiled talent packages: linked talents available at a small discount if fulfilling certain conditions, usually some pertinent combination of profession, race/culture and, occasionally, training package or ‘alignment’.

As a bit of a preview of things to come later, I’d like to offer the following samples. The two talents below are the ones mentioned in the table pertaining to the Chaos-Blighted Apple. it should be noted that the first ability, Protean Awareness is usually only available to Channeling users from certain cultural backgrounds who follow Chaos, whilst Chaos Shield is generally only available to some Chaos-worshiping or 'Chaotic' Mythics:

Protean Awareness (Skilled (Lesser) + Combat Reflexes + Peripheral Vision)
                             Key to a proper appreciation of Chaos is perceptual openness – an uncanny awareness of all that is going on around you, without the stagnant filtering of senses that most people use to order their experience. A true initiate of Chaos dwells in Chaos, their awareness embracing all that they perceive. Although it is possible that too much awareness may eventually lead to madness, new acolytes of Chaos certainly feel the benefit of this expanded perception, gaining a +5 bonus to the Awareness•Perceptions skill category. In addition, their hyperawareness means that if they are attacked from the front or rear, the bonuses gained by their attackers are reduced (to +5 flank and +15 rear). Finally, they gain a special +5 to OB and DB, and when rolling for initiative they roll three dice rather than two, and choose the dice that make up their initiative number.

Chaos Shield (Special Ability (Conditional))

                        Mythics are more capable of dealing with rogue spellcasters than most, but they, as anyone, can be caught unawares by a spell attack. Some Chaotic Mythics, more closely attuned to the essence of Chaos, have – after long practice – internalised some of that essence in their own aura, such that they can dissipate the energy of the first spell cast against them each day. This power is subconsciously activated whenever an aggressive spell (types E, DE, BE, F and all spells with the ‘m’ subtype) is cast on the Mythic. 
The spell makes a RR (with the spell level not the caster’s level being the target level, and the Mythic’s level being the attack level). If the spell fails the RR, it is dissipated by the chaotic energies bound to the Mythic’s aura. This is always accompanied by a burst of varicoloured light and cacophonic sound, and expends 3d10 Exhaustion Points. If the spell makes the RR, it has its effect as normal, there is no expenditure of Exhaustion Points but the power is lost until the next full sleep or meditation period. The Mythic can learn to control this ability at high cost, developing Spell Mastery skill (Chaos Shield), but the skill is developed as a Restricted Skill. When the ability is activated, the Mythic may attempt a Spell Mastery roll to prevent either a) activation or b) the accompanying sound and light show. If activation is prevented, the power is still expended (but not the Exhaustion Points).

A few things should be apparent for someone used to RMFRP's talent system: a) I didn't list any costs and b) the Chaos Shield ability is Conditional. The talents listed above do have costs, but they'll appear in a future document, along with the justification for the costs. As to the Conditional nature of Chaos Shield, this is an importation from the Fantasy Hero system which was also modified for use in RMFRP, appearing in an article in The Guild Companion. Long story short, the power is made cheaper by the existence of constraints upon its operation (requires Exhaustion Points, and affects only the first spell on any given day).

In any case, I've created quite literally hundreds of variant talents, linked talent packages and new talents, and some of these will be relevant to the material that appears in this blog. As a final comment, the above talents refer to Chaos and being 'Chaotic': this does indeed draw on the alignment system that appears in other systems, but isn't a wholesale importation. As usual, there'll be more on this later. The talents Skilled, Combat Reflexes and Peripheral Vision can be found in RMFRP Character Law.

All RMFRP material referred to above is copyright; 2002-2017 by Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd. All rights reserved. No reproductions without permission.

Friday 17 November 2017

The Watchful Village

If you were to travel the Old High Road west out of Kalanakree, leaving on a bright spring morning, you’d find yourself crossing a gentle, well-watered land, rolling and green, where the fat sheep bleat complacently and the apple orchards thrive. The road passes through many little villages of stout, well-maintained cottages whilst large farmhouses sit beside meandering brooks or in the comfortable shadow of the low hills.  After a half day’s travel, you would reach a little roadside public house at an unremarkable junction where a dusty white lane runs off to the south, cresting a low ridge and losing itself in a shallow, wooded vale. Having enjoyed a sturdy luncheon of bread and ham washed down with a mellow ale at the tavern, you might on a whim, decide to explore that lane. 

The publican, a garrulous gossip, will tell you that the lane leads into the valley of the Chelme. If you were to follow it for the rest of the day, you’d reach a village at a crossroads – Barabbyn, he calls it – where there is a good inn. Then, you’d have four choices: you could return back the way you came, back north to the Old High Road and, ultimately the waiting heights of the mountains. Or you could travel due east, eventually wending your way on back roads to Kalanakree. You could continue south, alongside the lively and pretty Chelme, until it joins a larger stream. There’s naught that way but more and more farms until you reach the River Brejl, where you might catch a river boat down to the capital. Or he says, with a merry, if rather sardonic, chuckle, you could go west, further upstream along the dwindling Chelme until you reach the river’s source and the hamlet of Chelmsey. But that’s at the very end of the road, in the shadow of the mountains, and, he adds in a stage-whisper, a strange sort of place, where the folk are a little stand-offish...And well they might be, he says. Sometimes, mutant animals are born there. And sometimes worse, he adds, eyelids drooping in a raconteur’s wink. A hundred years ago, he says, a small troop of crusaders and priests went to Chelmsey, to put an end to some evil, some leftover thing or creature of Shroudfall. Although they succeeded, it was a close-run thing. None say, he continues a bit hurriedly, none say that the people of Chelmsey were to blame for the evil and the few who go to Chelmsey speak nothing but good of the place.  But better safe than sorry, no?


The hamlet of Chelmsey harbours some hundred and forty souls – although that is not immediately obvious, as many of the houses are hidden behind hedges, and the hamlet itself is quite spread out. It actually has three distinct parts: the Fork, where the lane splits into two at the entrance to the township. Here are found the Shepherd’s Delight Inn, the local Temple of Vlynn, the smithy and trading post. The left-hand lane runs for a few hundred metres before terminating at Lane’s End, a cool and shady dell that is home to a small cluster of cottages, shearing sheds and a saddlery. The right-hand branch of the lane follows the Chelme to its source in a reed-fringed pool. Where the Chelme emerges from the pond a water-wheel turns lazily and a rather ramshackle mill leans towards the stream as if preparing to leap in and swim. Here a row of cottages looks down on the tranquil pool from a low hillside. Just behind the cottages there stands a pillar of honey-gold stone, thirty feet tall and crowned with a bronze statue of Jureus brandishing lightning and smiling fiercely in the face of his manifold foes. The lane continues past the pool and pillar, heading up and over the hill and into the shadow of the mountains.

The only obvious difference between Chelmsey and any other similarly-sized village is the monument, and this single incongruity raises many questions for the discerning wanderer: normally such things are found only in places of great piety and wealth. But this monument is here for another, darker reason, and is a reminder of both the enduring presence of a great danger – and of the sacrifices made to contain it. One hundred years ago, the village was the site of a mystical struggle to contain a Chaos Well – an eruption of chaotic energies left over from Shroudfall that corrupted the district, producing plagues of both the body and the soul, destroying crops and warping human and animal alike. Not all of the products of the chaos were malign, but there was sufficient concern that the Church of Jureus gathered some of its highest ranking priests and warriors and sent them to Chelmsey, there to seal the Well. They were joined by priests of Vlynn and Karsatos and wild-spirited servants of Kamizadros. This unusual confluence of holy power enabled them to work a mighty ritual to cap the chaos flow. In this they were successful, but several lives were lost when the chaotic energy fought against those who would contain it. Now, although the Well is sealed, the residues of its presence still affect the hamlet and its immediate surrounds, and the danger remains that the Well will break its eldritch bonds...or that some inimical force from outside will come to Chelmsey and seek to liberate – and manipulate – the raw, brutal force that still abides.


An example of the sort of thing the good folk of Chelmsey must contend with – even after the closing of the Chaos Well – is the enduring effect of so much chaotic energy upon the soil and water of the region. Although there have been several generations working diligently through plant and animal husbandry to mitigate the effects of chaos on their district, the aberrant energies do still produce odd progeny. The fishing around Chelmsey is best described as ‘interesting’, and the district is home to an unusually high number of Beast- and Plant-kin, as well as elemental hybrids. Plant-life can also bear the burden of chaos: whole crops can be lost, and tales are still told of the horrendous effects of a hallucinogenic potato harvest. Although things are not so bad now, there are still occasional mutations. The Chaos-Blighted Apple described below is one such: it has much the same dimensions as an ordinary apple, save for small, pale blisters around the base of the stem and the colour of the leaves – which can vary considerably from the parent tree, ranging from a brilliant, if lurid green, to a washed-out mauve. The apple will also taste much like any other apple, but will leave a strong, bittersweet tang on the tongue.

The effects of eating a Chaos-Blighted Apple always vary, although they are generally minor. If a Resistance Roll against Essence (3rd level attack) is failed, roll d100, subtract the victim’s Constitution bonus (or add any penalty), and consult the following table:

less than 01
You feel great! Energy courses through your body, granting 3d10 Exhaustion Points. If this takes you above your natural maximum, the extra Exhaustion Points last until your next full sleep.
Something's amiss, though not in a bad way. You gain the effects of the Protean Awareness talent until your next full sleep.
OK, so this is weird. Everytime you try to speak, you are unable to sound consonants. This lasts until your next full sleep. (G)oo(d) (l)u(ck) o(rd)e(r)i(ng) (th)a(t) (dr)i(nk) (y)ou('ve) (b)ee(n) (cr)a(v)i(ng)!
Your eyes flash intermittently, with all the colours of the rainbow (and many others). No-one will make eye contact with you until you sleep it off.
66 UM
Between now and your next sleep, you may add +100 to the first Resistance Roll you are required to make (if any).
In addition to a distracting nausea (-10 to all activity), you now find yourself highly susceptible to all mind-affecting spells, resisting them at half your level. These effects last until you have a good night's sleep.
You fall immediately into a deep slumber that lasts for twelve hours. When you awaken, you find yourself subtly changed. You are now more sensitive to the ebb and flow of magical energies, but less cognisant of the material world. You gain a special +5 to the Power•Awareness skill category and a -5 penalty to all Awareness skills.
Until your next full sleep, you are protected as if you possessed the Talent Chaos Shield. You do, however, lose all Power Points, although you regain them at twice the normal rate.
The energies of chaos infect your mind, opening up new pathways and granting you knowledge and proclivities you never knew you had: you may learn the list Chaos Mastery as if it were an Open list of your realm (although no higher than level 5). If you already know or have access to this list as a Base List, you gain +20 to Spell Casting Maneuvers pertaining to this list.

Of the Talents Protean Awareness and Chaos Shield, there will be more later: I’ve created a lot of talents over the years and will happily share them, within the limits of IP issues and how much time I have to blog about them!

Additionally, discerning Rolemaster players might notice that the above table draws on Rolemaster Fantasy Role Playing, one of Rolemaster’s various incarnations. This doesn’t indicate a personal preference – or at least, not mine! It simply reflects the fact that my players liked RMFRP and this material was created for the last campaign I ran under that system.

Thursday 16 November 2017

Welcome To The New Kingdoms!

Now all vision is shroud-devoured, all songs
Shorn of true music, crumbling to echoes.
Beasts, black of soul weave woe in cold shadows,
Mean hearts march caparison’d in ancient wrongs.
No more the bright silver call of morning
Horns. The gate of welcome, enwebbed with fears
Shuts against hope, honour’s glories fallen.
This storied land, a mirror seen through tears.

So, I’m taking a brief break from my Deductionist conversion to introduce the world of Verkhun and, more particularly, the New Kingdoms. I won’t at this point get into the underlying cosmology: I just want to talk about the Kingdoms themselves. They’ve been the site of my campaigns (and 250,000 words of a fantasy series, currently in abeyance) for almost a quarter-century. I don’t think that Verkhun is a particularly novel or unique setting, but I like to think that it is, for the most part, a thing well made, crafted with a certain amount of anthropological rigour, hopefully some imagination and a great deal of enjoyment.

The New Kingdoms themselves occupy the south-eastern corner of a large continental landmass, about equidistant from the equator and the southern polar regions (as a native of the antipodes, I couldn’t escape my southern hemisphere roots!) They’re actually the residue of an empire that fell apart nearly two millennia earlier, hence the ‘New’ Kingdoms moniker, although it’s a misnomer for some of the lands. They’re also ‘new’ in a double sense: since they first formed out of the ruins of the old empire, the great disaster known as Shroudfall ripped the world apart, toppling other realms and sweeping the New Kingdoms with catastrophic waves of chaotic magic. Civilisation teetered at the limits of endurance but held on – barely – and the lands were forever altered, even where their borders and geography had remained comparatively stable. Thus the second, and perhaps deeper sense of ‘New’: even those lands with a long and rich history are confronting a world vastly changed, and striving to master a reality that challenges all the assumptions of the past.

For the most part, the New Kingdoms occupy a temperate and benign environment, although they are framed by high mountains, harsh desert and wide seas. The region is - particularly since Shroudfall - one of the few areas in Verkhun where reasonably intensive agriculture, commerce and industry is possible on a large scale, and it is one of a few precious lands where civilisation is still in the ascendant (although threatened on many fronts, both within and without).

So that's a very brief introduction to the New Kingdoms. I could, I suppose, start with a wider lens and give a gazetteer-like tour of the New Kingdoms, but I'd rather do things a little differently. Instead, I'm going to start small,and gradually broaden things from there. The next post on the New Kingdoms will look at the comparatively isolated hamlet of Chelmsey.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Crossing The Abyss II: Rebuilding The Deductionist From Scratch

So back to the business of converting the Deductionist from Pathfinder to Rolemaster. I said earlier that the obvious way to treat the problem was to simply treat the Deductionist's special abilities as if they are spells, organise them into lists, assign a set of development costs and hey presto! A new profession is born.
Straight away, there are fundamental differences - before one even tries to create spell lists! Consider the basic chassis of the Deductionist: a 'fair' BAB, good Will Save and poor Fortitude and Reflex saves. Rolemaster simply doesn't roll this way.

Resistance Rolls v. Saving Throws

For a start, RM Resistance Rolls are not linked to profession, they're a function of level and stat bonuses. There have been a few optional rules over the years allowing Resistance as a Skill, but they have never been core, and they are not, as of the beta playtest, reappearing in any form in RMU. Further, RM doesn't even have an equivalent to Reflex saves: avoiding damage in such a fashion is a function of skills and Defensive Bonus.
So, short of introducing a Resistance skill (an idea I've always rather liked, but will shelve for current purposes), we have to look at alternative ways of simulating saving throws. As a quick and dirty method we might try this: Will saves influence the cost of Concentration-type skills and Reflex saves influence the cost of Athletic/Gymnastic style skills. Fortitude saves do have a clear analogue in RM - there is a category of RR that deals with Poison and Disease - but, again, this only improves as the character levels up, and only in the most generic and abstract way. Fortitude saves might influence skills such as Body Development, some Concentration skills and other skills such as Disease/Drug Tolerance (and, if you're using the old Arms Companion, a number of skills there).
There are also Background Options (or, in later versions of Rolemaster, 'Talents') that might lend themselves to boosting RRs, but, again, these are not tied to professions.
So that's problem #1. Let's move on.

Base Attack Bonus v. Weapon Skills

In Rolemaster, there's no BAB. Proficiency in combat is a function of skill level in weapons, paid for during the development phase at each level. There is a wide variation, of course: Fighters and similar professions pay less for their weapon skills than professions that concentrate on magic, with stealthy professions and Semi-spell users inhabiting a middle ground in terms of cost. Only if one uses the optional Level Bonus rules in 2nd edition Rolemaster is there a kind of automatic improvement as the character levels up. Fighters and their ilk get the full bonus, whilst Magicians and Sorcerors and other specialist  magic users get none.
Assuming the use of Level Bonuses, we are left with translating BAB into development point costs.
Pathfinder has three BAB progressions: 'poor', 'fair' and 'good'. As a rough guide, we might decide that 'poor' progressions allow the development of one rank per level at a high cost, 'fair' allows the development of two ranks per level, with the first at low cost and the second at a higher cost. The 'good' progression then grants two ranks per level, with the first very low and the second not too expensive. If you were looking at Rolemaster professions in this way, you might decide that most Pure or Hybrid spell users are 'poor' BAB, most Semi-spell users and non-combat specialist Arms users are 'fair' and combat specialists are 'good'.
Assuming that's adequate, our Deductionist has similar weapon costs to the Thief, Bounty Hunter, Ranger and Bard. So far, so good. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Deductionist has the following costs for weapon categories: 3/7, 3/9, 5, 6, 8, 8 (there are six costs, and they are apportioned to the categories of the players choosing. I'm also giving the Deductionist a level Bonus of +1 per level.

Problem #2 is OK for now. Next time we'll look at skills and try to come up with a means of resolution for Problem #1.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Crossing The Abyss I: or Negotiating System Differences

One thing anyone who follows this blog will soon learn is that your author has a tendency to promise a blog and deliver something quite different. The following post will no doubt be the first of many to deviate from predicted content. But as I was driving home from the supermarket, I fell to musing about the difficulty inherent in converting Pathfinder classes to Rolemaster professions,and decided to subject the Internet to my own particular variety of thinking out loud.

After a long-ish time away from running RPGs, I decided that I'd missed it and began to dabble again. As an indication of just how long I'd been gone, suffice it to say that I'd missed the 'edition wars', much of the OSR, the birth of Pathfinder and the end of the old independent version of White Wolf Studios. When I returned to RPGs, I rather stumbled into Pathfinder by accident and liked what I saw - in particular the tremendous creative ferment unleashed by the use and adaptation of the OGL (I'd missed the import of that in my earlier GM-ing days).

After a few months of awestruck, thumb-sucking wandering around the Internet learning about all that had happened in TTRPGs in my absence, I contacted members of my old Rolemaster group and co-ordinated the rebirth of a new campaign (held over Skype). My initial hope was to run Pathfinder, but my players wouldn't have it, despite considerable cajoling: they wanted Rolemaster, and as Rolemaster was - and remains - my favourite game, I agreed. Still, for me, the tremendous range of options available in Pathfinder could not be ignored, and so I set myself to incorporating some of what I'd found into Rolemaster, particularly the many interesting character classes.

I immediately ran into problems.

Like many problems, they proved ultimately fruitful, but for a while, the whole notion of importing Pathfinder classes into Rolemaster seemed more or less intractable: at least without losing most of what made them attractive or interesting.

The core difficulty lies in the basic mechanics of what constitutes a 'class' in Pathfinder and a 'profession' in Rolemaster. Keeping it short, despite some similarities (both advance in levels, gaining power as they do so), the primary difficulty, for me, was that Pathfinder classes unlock various special abilities as they level up. Rolemaster professions do not: at each level, a Rolemaster character spends development points to learn skills and spells (at varying costs, depending on the profession chosen), and that's it. They don't select new feats, nor do they learn new abilities contingent upon their profession.

I have no problem with this, of course: Rolemaster is the system I know best, and the one I enjoy the most. The system is actually less limited, in some ways, than Pathfinder or D&D, in that if your character wishes to develop a skill and can afford to pay the skill cost, they can do so. There is a bit more latitude for character breadth and quirky twists and turns. The only problem I had with the difference was one of translation. How to make Pathfinder classes such as Total Party Kill Games' Deductionist into viable Rolemaster templates? The Deductionist doesn't - except in rare situations - have spell-casting ability. The Deductionist's powers and abilities may be 'spell-like' but they are not spells. The obvious answer is to build their powers and abilities as if they were spells, and create Rolemaster-type spell lists for them.

The next post dealing with this topic will look into how well that works.

And So It Begins...

Hello and welcome to Tales of the New Kingdoms, a blog devoted to sharing the fruits of a decades-long labour of love: the world of Verkhun, home to various RPG campaigns since 1993. Most of these campaigns have taken place under a version of Rolemaster, but have also included deviations into Fantasy Hero, older editions of D&D and, more recently, I’ve attempted a Pathfinder adaptation.

So what can be expected from this blog? Well, I envisage a rather random grab-bag of commentary on this or that piece of crunch, new or tweaked rules, spells, magic items, races, nations, cultures and possibly the occasional small-scale adventure. Realistically, this blog exists simply because I have a world and ideas to share. 

Coming soon...a brief introduction to Verkhun and, more specifically, the New Kingdoms with associated thoughts on how settings shape games and games shape settings.

Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...