Thursday, October 14, 2010

WTF, Rolemaster?

As anyone who has read this blog more than once probably knows, I have an unhealthy relationship with one of the used bookstores here in town; namely that I cannot seem to keep from going there every couple of days. Two summers ago, I found a boxed set of Rolemaster, 2nd edition and bought it out of curiosity. I tried to learn it a month or two later whilst imbibing beer. It didn't work out very well. I blamed the the beer.

About two weeks ago, I acquired a copy of the Middle-Earth Role-playing System, 2nd edition from the same store. It appears to be a version of Rolemaster. Last night I tried to start learning it, mainly out of that blasted curiosity I cannot seem to hold in check.

This time, there is no beer to blame. I straight up cannot wrap my mind around Rolemaster. I have also found that the very little bit of it I managed to learn has completely dissipated since last night. I'm talking zero retention, folks.

Well, that's not entirely true. I remember that one of the critical miss entries is that the player trips over an imaginary deceased turtle.


Granted, I haven't read much Tolkien in quite some time (just finished teaching it to my seniors, though we didn't get time to finish it unfortunately), so I'm not sure if that's some kind of obscure Tolkien reference or just a failed attempt at making their critical hit tables funny. (ICE seems preoccupied with doing that)

I'm also not sure what this "animist" business is. Again, my readings on Tolkien could use some serious brushing up, but I don't remember anything remotely like a cleric in Middle-Earth.

I'm not a Tolkien expert, so I could very well be talking out of my ass on this one. For all I know, the imaginary, deceased turtle played a very important part in one of the books that I don't remember very well. Maybe there were animists all over Return of the King. Perhaps that book has an entire chapter of animists tripping over imaginary dead turtles.

...anyway, my gripe is not with how accurate/faithful MERPS is to Tokien's work, but rather with the fact that Rolemaster seems intentionally arcane and obtuse to my sensibilities. It seems robust, and I want to like it, but the mental energy I am investing in learning is producing very little return. I should be pouring any spare creativity/brainpower left over after planning lesson units to get Deadlands or Mutant Future running.

Speaking of Deadlands, the original GM-to-be is no longer moving away, or so I was informed via text message today. I have few details at the time, and it is unclear whether or not I will still be expected to run Deadlands, or if he will run it as per our original plan.
I have to confess that a recent post complimenting my customized mutant races for MuFu has bolstered my enthusiasm.
Not enough hours in a day, not enough days in a week.

...but seriously, Rolemaster: What. The. Fuck.


  1. It's been years, a decade even, since I've read the Lord of the Rings books and I don't recall any imaginary turtles in the plot either. It sounds like those Rolemaster books might be good for some credit at said used books store.

  2. I think the turtle is a legacy from the generic Arms Law.

  3. The fumble and crit tables are taken from Arms Law.

    It's best to play MERP as a fantasy game that takes place in a world that just happens to look a lot like Tolkien's Middle Earth. LotR is overrated, anyway.

    RoleMaster is a great system. My old group had a great time with it...and trying to make an automated character record for it improved my understanding of Excel exponentially.

  4. I loved RM back in the day, and still think that it does weapon vs. armor damage best. At its roots, it is a percentile system. Character generation can get a bit bothersome, but once you have your character set up, I always found it easy to play.

  5. Senior year of high school. Aaaaaahh.

    Rolemaster was a breath of fresh air at a time when I was falling out of love with D&D. It was a different way to get FRP done, and it came, in my mind at least, without a lot of the pre-conceptions about FRP that D&D carried with it.

    I'd still play it today, but truth be told, I prefer C&C.

  6. I loved (and still love) MERP (and, to a slightly less extent, Rolemaster 2nd edition).

    As KenHR mentioned, though, MERP does not do the best job at emulating Middle-earth (but I don't think that it fails as badly as some critics claim). The 'imaginary turtle' fumble is a joke (form the earlier Arms Law rules), obviously, and not meant to emulate anything in Tolkien's writings.

    I think that the box set of MERP included a basic solo adventure ('choose-your-own-adventure' style) to introduce the basic mechanics of the game. It did a decent enough job at that, iirc. But it sounds like you only purchased the core book.

    The MERP corebook sadly is not especially well organized (and the 2nd edition seems more poorly organized than 1st edition, although it includes a number of rules improvements). Nonetheless, I would recommend giving it a shot.

    At the very least, though, MERP books go for big cash on ebay these days. :)

  7. I do have a copy of Arms Law, though I must confess I haven't ever really sat down and looked through it.

    The previous owner of this book probably should have tried Ebay, because it was six bucks at the used book store... meaning they probably gave him about a buck fifty for it.

    Perhaps I will give it another shot. I'm not sure where the mental barrier is, but for some reason I'm just not picking up on this system. Perhaps I should try the Rolemaster 2 books, if they are better organized. Aside from the races and some of the classes, is there anything in MERPS that is significantly different?

  8. Ryan, MERP is a simplified version of RM2e. It streamlines (considerably) character creation and class development. The combat system is also (slightly) simpler.

    I would recommend trying MERP before RM2.

  9. IS RM/MERP that hard to wrap your head around? Maybe I'm damaged from the start, since it was the system I started game mastering... ;)