#RPGaDay2015: 15 – Thirty Years of Rolemaster

The longest-running campaign that I’ve played in is a Rolemaster campaign. Some friends of ours have been playing the same Rolemaster campaign for literally as long as Rolemaster has existed. Some of the same players have been involved for ±30 years now, and most of the current group has been around for 5-10 years. I’ve only joined in for a couple handfuls of sessions, spanning a few years, but this group has been going for roughly as long as I’ve been roleplaying, period.

Oh, and when you play Rolemaster that long, even with all the supplements and options (they’re still using the edition/books that were current when they started), you learn it really well. For example, the GM and many of the players have functionally memorized the endless spell lists, so what is horribly unwieldy to me is as easy for them as remembering that fireball is a 20’-radius blast. It was one of the easiest games I’ve ever learned, despite the detail and complexity, because everyone else at the table knows it so well that there was always someone available to explain something or answer a question about how the rules worked or what skill applied.

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#RPGaDAY 12: Four Colors al Fresco

Well, there’s “still play”, and then there’s “still play”. The oldest published RPG I have played recently is probably The Shadow of Yesterday (we’re playing it now). I also regularly return to Primetime Adventures, though it’s been a couple years since we last played it. And Primetime Adventures is pretty much my go-to game when I don’t have some other game specifically in mind, so I’m sure I’ll play it again some time soon. 

And then there are several older games that I would play at the drop of a hat, but it’s been many years since I last have: Ars Magica, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Underground, The Babylon Project, Everway, Fading Suns, Deadlands (the original), or Over the Edge. I still buy all the Ars Magica supplements as they come out, and try to find time to read them. 

The oldest published game I actually have played semi-recently is Rolemaster: I played for a bit about 4 years ago with a group that is still playing the original edition, 30 years later. But I don’t really think it’s fair to say that I “still” play or read it—I haven’t touched it since then, didn’t read any of the books at the time, and before that group I had last looked at a Rolemaster book in about ’85. 

The only games older than The Shadow of Yesterday that I’ve both recently played and intend to play again in the future would be my own Four Colors al Fresco, created in 1999, released as a free beta PDF around 2004, but not yet properly published. It will be this fall/winter, if I can make the time between school and work. 

#RPGaDAY 5: Old-Skool!

an unfair trap from Grimtooth's Traps

Hmmm…most old-school? Is this a question of actual vintage, or of playstyle? In terms of their actual vintage, I still have my Moldvay Red Box D&D Basic Set book (though not the box, and only 1 of the dice), which was the first RPG thing I ever bought. I have since acquired a number of Dragon magazines that predate that by several years, and are probably my oldest RPG anything. Though in terms of really epitomizing what I think of as “Old School” RPing, it’s probably a multi-way tie between Grimtooth’s Traps (the original), with it’s adversarial-GM attitude and completely ridiculous traps; DragonRaid, the Christian proselytizing tool that takes the worst adversarial & railroading aspects of early RPGs, and weds them to more railroading and a dubious and self-contradictory approach to witnessing and morality; Spellbounds, which reads like someone’s home rules, vintage 1980; Actor’s Book of Characters, a supplement for World Action and Adventure, which the author managed to justify as earning a dozen college credits and being his thesis; and Fantasy Wargaming: the Highest Level of All which is this interesting mishmash of semi-authentic realistic setting elements focusing on things like the nameday of your character, and bog-standard fantasy rules for the era, all with a tone of revelation.

Perhaps the one game I own that feels even more old-school to me than Grimtooth’s Traps (largely because none of the games I ever ran or played or even heard about actually did the adversarial GM thing, much less the all-but-cheating nature of those specific traps) is the original Arms Law, back before Rolemaster was even an idea. Well, I don’t actually have that, I have a photocopy of the crit tables from the very first edition of Arms Law, which a friend had bought. Rather than dropping in the whole Arms Law system in place of the combat rules in D&D, as it was intended to be used, my friends and I had decided to keep the simplicity of D&D and just graft this one piece on because the crit results were so much fun. I know that a crit was only a possibility if you rolled a natural 20, but I don’t remember whether we used a 2nd attack roll or a 2nd unmodified roll or the degree of success of the original roll to determine the degree of the critical. I might be able to puzzle it out if I were to look at those tables, but I haven’t busted them out in decades.

one of the Arms Law crit tables

Thanks to They Stole Frazier’s Brain for this scan.

No Sleep at Con of the North 2014

February was the annual Con of the North in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area, which I’ve been attending for…15? years now. This year plans were up in the air so we didn’t preregister, but lucked out when we got there and had a great time with a mix of scheduled and pick-up games, including one that I’ve been wanting to play for years. 

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Abusing Magic in Rolemaster

I was looking at the spells available to my Rolemaster ranger, and thinking about all the cool things I could do with them. Mind you, “cool” in this case is more about entertainment than effectiveness. 

Arcane Pouch let’s her create an extradimensional space where she can put things and retrieve them at will. Balance Weapon let’s her “balance anything to increase its suitability for becoming a thrown weapon. For example…a chair….” Combined, she can pull bar stools out of nowhere and chuck them at her enemies. [ok, not really–the space is limited to small objects and shortish durations. Oh well.]

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