The 5% difference, a review of
ROLEMASTER Fantasy Role Playing
Coleman Charlton (ed.) IRON CROWN ENTERPRISESCopyright Brent Knorr, 1999
Rolemaster Fantasy Role Playing, or RMFRP for short, is the latest incarnation of the Rolemaster system from Iron Crown Enterprises. It has been described as being a reprint of the previous Rolemaster Standard System (RMSS) with only 5% difference in rules. I don’t consider this to be completely accurate. It is certainly compatible with the previous system, but does contain a lot of information that is different. In many ways I think it is more of a hybrid of the RMSS rules and the Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) system. Whether this book is something you will want depends on whether you are already familiar with Rolemaster and/or MERP or if you haven’t played Rolemaster before. Of course the other factor is always how much you want to support your favorite gaming company!
If you haven’t played Rolemaster and have been wanting to give it a try, this book is great. It has everything you need to generate a character and run the game in one book. You can choose from one of six Races and nine Professions. You can also choose one or more of the fifteen Training Packages to flesh out your character. There are equipment lists, a list of creatures, and ninety six spell lists, each containing descriptions of the spells up to tenth level. You get six weapon attack tables, One-Handed Concussion, One-Handed Edged, Two-Handed, Missile Weapon, Pole Arm, and Thrown Weapon Attack Tables. You also get the Tooth & Claw, Bash & Grapple, Bolt Spell Attack and Ball Spell Attack Tables. There are nine critical hit tables to go along with the attack tables and a Weapon Fumble and a Spell Failure Table. And, of course there are all the rules you need to use the tables as well as some sections on the basics of Game mastering and building a setting for your players to adventure in..
For those who have played MERP, this book will have a very familiar feel. Most of the sections have more detail than the MERP equivalents but provides an easy method to move up to the more robust Rolemaster system. In fact, I would be very surprised to see a new edition of MERP come out. Rather, I expect we will see MERP products come out as supplements to RMFRP.
If you already own the base books for RMSS, you really don’t need to buy a copy of RMFRP unless you want to use the simplified tables. Even then, this doesn’t cut down on the number of tables you need for a given player character, just limits the choices. Obviously with the amount of information that is included in this book, some of what was in RMSS had to go.
There are fewer races to choose from, Common Man, High Man, Wood Elf, Dwarf and Halfling. Mixed Men are not described, Common Man is the same as the RMSS Rural Man with the common man culture. Other than losing the description of available talents, the races do not appear to have changed.
There are also fewer professions available, most of these have minor changes. These are described in the following table:
|Fighter||Tackling replaces Wrestling on the list of Everyman skills. Channelling is not listed as a Restricted skill presumably because it is not described as a skill in RMFRP|
|Thief||Subdual has been removed from the list of Everyman skills (and from the game).
The Traveller training package now costs 12 instead of 11. (Correction of a typo in RMSS, training package page used to have 12 as the cost in RMSS)
|Rogue||Tackling replaces Wrestling on the list of Everyman skills.|
|Magician||Under Profession Bonuses, Power Awareness is now +20 instead of +10 and Power Manipulation has been removed. (was +10, skill is not in RMFRP)|
|Cleric||Under Profession Bonuses, Power Awareness is now +15 instead of +10 and Power Manipulation has been removed. (was +5, skill is not in RMFRP)
Channelling has been removed from the list of Everyman skills (and from the game)
Scout training package now costs 28 instead of 38 (which was a typo in the RMSS book, had 28 listed on the training package page).
|Mentalist||Under Profession Bonuses, Power Awareness is now +10 instead of +5 and Power Manipulation has been removed. (was +5, skill is not in RMFRP)
Channelling has been removed from the list of Restricted skills (and from the game).
Not that it matters, but the illustration used in RMFRP is the one that was used for the Warrior Monk in RMSS.
|Dabbler||Under Profession Bonuses, Power Awareness is now +10 instead of +5 and Power Manipulation has been removed. (was +5, skill is not in RMFRP)
Channelling has been removed from the list of Restricted skills (and from the game).
Illustration used in RMFRP is the one that was used for the Mystic in RMSS
|Bard||Channelling has been removed from the list of Restricted skills (and from the game).
(P.S. Has anyone else ever wondered why the illustration shows what appears to be a halfling, judging from the Tall Fellow arm patch, when halflings are supposed to be lousy spell users?)
The Training packages have been reduced from thirty six to fifteen. The notation about starting money has a minor change. In RMSS it said: ” When generating starting money, either the GM should make the rolls; or the player can simply take 51 (for each d100 roll) or 6 (for each d10 roll).” In RMFRP the 51 has been changed to 55. Also, the character Kohrist in the example text has undergone a sex change.
The last entry on each of the “Special” tables on the Training Packages have been changed from “0” to “100”.
The following table lists the training packages that are included in RMFRP as well as any changes from RMSS:
|Amateur Mage||No changes|
|Animal Friend||No changes|
|City Guard||No changes|
|Doctor||The problem with the kit giving out 2 ranks Technical/Trade – Professional skill category has finally been fixed., it now gives 0 ranks in this category, but 3 in Diagnostics and Second Aid instead of just 1. However, it no longer gives any ranks in the Midwifery or Prepare Herbs skills (used to get 1 in each). Neither of these skills is described in RMFRP.|
|Herbalist||Now gives 2 ranks in Technical/Trade General – Use Prepared Herbs instead of 2 ranks in Technical/Trade Vocational – Prepare Herbs|
|Knight||Now only gives 1 rank in Mounted Combat (Combat Manoeuvres) instead of 2.
Now gives 2 ranks in Outdoor Animal – Riding instead of 2.
No longer get a rank in the Special Attacks skill category or in Special Attacks – Jousting. Used to get 1 rank in each, the category is not included in RMFRP
|Merchant||Technical/Trade Professional – Advertising 1 rank has been removed and Technical/Trade Vocational – choice of one skill 1 rank has been added|
|Soldier||Technical/Trade Professional – Military Organization 1 rank has been removed and Technical/Trade Vocational – Tactics has been added|
|Traveller||No changes, other than one of the few typos I found, Dabbler has a “z” on the end|
Categories and Skills have undergone several changes between RMSS and RMFRP.
The individual Static Maneuver Tables for each Skill Category are not included in RMFRP. Some Skill Categories have gone missing as well. Martial Arts Sweeps, Power Manipulation, Special Attacks, and Special Defenses are not included.
Descriptions for many of the skills are missing, although most are mentioned in the category box under “Additional skills in this category include:” section.
The optional third statistic has been dropped from all the skills.
There is a new rule attached to skills which I refer to as the specialization rule. Some skills are marked with a “*”
” * – A character with at least one skill
rank in this skill must choose one of the listed ‘specialized’ crafts as his ‘area of specialization’. When using this skill in his area of specialization, the character’s skill ranks are considered to be doubled.”
Other changes to categories and skills are listed in the following table:
Categories and Skills
|Armor Skill Categories||All skills are described|
|Artistic Active||All skills are described. Ventriloquism seems to have lost the “Language utilizes excessive labial sounds -20” penalty.|
|Artistic Passive||All skills are described.|
|Athletic Brawn||All skills are described.|
|Athletic Endurance||All skills are described.|
|Athletic Gymnastics||Pole-vaulting, Rappelling, Skating, Skiing, Stilt-walking, Surfing, Tightrope-walking and Tumbling no longer have descriptions.|
|Awareness Perceptions||All skills are described.|
|Awareness Searching||Surveillance no longer includes “Also includes the ability to determine the best approach and technique in solving a crime.” as part of it’s description.|
|Awareness Senses||Reality Awareness and Spatial Location Awareness no longer have descriptions.|
|Body Development||The one and only skill is still described. I was impressed that they remembered to change the character in the example from “Hoodaw the Half-elven Bard” to “Lar the Wood Elf Bard”.|
|Combat Maneuvers||Adrenal Deflecting and Reverse Stroke are no longer described and are not listed as additional skills for this category.|
|Communication||Magical Languages is not described and is not listed as an additional skill for this category. (In addition, Beeborukamuk has had his name shortened to Beebo and has also undergone a sex change in the first example).|
|Crafts||All the skills that were previously described are still described, with some of the skills with shorter descriptions moved into the “partial list of suggested crafts” section. This category makes use of one of the few new rules. The skills Cooking, Leather-crafts, Metal-crafts, Stone-crafts, and Wood-crafts now follow the specialization rule.|
|Directed Spells||All skills are described.|
|Influence||Propaganda is not described and is not listed as an addition skill for this category.|
|Lore General||All skills are described, Culture Lore has been renamed to Race Lore.|
|Lore Magical||Circle Lore, Planar Lore, Symbol Lore, and Warding Lore are not described.|
|Lore Obscure||All skills are described.|
|Martial Arts Striking||The “Striking Degree 1-4” skills are not described and are not listed as additional skills for this category.|
|Martial Arts Sweeps||This entire category has disappeared, taking the Blocking, Sweeps Degree 1-4, and Wrestling skills with it.|
|Outdoor Animal||Animal Mastery, Animal Healing, and Herding are no longer described.|
|Outdoor Environmental||All skills are described.|
|Power Awareness||Divination and Power Perception are not described.|
|Power Manipulation||This entire category is gone, taking the Channelling, Magic Ritual, Spell Mastery, and Transcend Armor skills with it.|
|Power Point Development||The one and only skill is still described. The sentence “For a Hybrid spell user average the realm stat bonuses for his two realms before dividing by two.” has been removed, probably because Hybrid spell users have been removed.|
|Science/Analytic Basic||Both skills are described.|
|Science/Analytic Specialized||Astronomy, Biochemistry, and Psychology are no longer described.|
|Self Control||Adrenal Balance, Adrenal Concentration, Adrenal Landing, Adrenal Leaping, Adrenal Quickdraw, Adrenal Speed, Adrenal Stabilization, Adrenal Strength, Cleansing Trance, Control Lycanthropy, Death Trance, Healing Trance and Sleep Trance are no longer described. Stunned Maneuvering is listed as an additional skill, but there is a Stun Removal skill that
has exactly the same description that Stunned Maneuvering had. See the note at the bottom of this table.
|Special Attacks||This entire category is gone, taking the Brawling, Disarm Foe (Armed), Disarm Foe (Unarmed) and Jousting (Lancing) skills with it.|
|Special Defenses||This entire category is gone, taking the Adrenal Defense and Adrenal Toughness skills with it.|
|Spells||This skill is described|
|Subterfuge Attack||Both skills are described. Silent Kill has been renamed Silent Attack.|
|Subterfuge Mechanics||The descriptions for Counterfeiting, Forgery, Hiding items, and Trap building are not included.|
|Subterfuge Stealth||All skills are described. There is also a paragraph at the beginning that describes the effects of a successful maneuver that was not in RMSS: “A successful maneuver by a character using any of these skills will result in a modification for any related ‘awareness’ static maneuvers that are made by anyone else. Such a modification is -25% of the character’s Hiding skill bonus for a ‘partial success,’ -50% for a ‘near success,’ -100% for a ‘success,’ and -150% for an ‘absolute success.'”|
|Technical/Trade General||All skills are described, and Sailing has been added.|
|Technical/Trade Professional||Advertising, Architecture, Dowsing, Military Organization, and Surgery are not described. Mechanition and Mining incorporate the new specialization rule.|
|Technical/Trade Vocational||Cartography, Gimmickry, Hypnosis, Midwifery, Prepare Herbs, Prepare Poisons, and Siege Engineering are not described.
Boat Pilot incorporates the new specialization rule.
|Urban||All skills are described.|
|Weapon||All skills are described.|
John W. Curtis III had the following explanation for the changes re Stun Removal/Stunned Maneuvering:
“Somewhere along the way, the definition of Stunned Maneuvering got lost. Originally, you used Stunned Maneuvering to “maneuver while stunned”… that means that the skill allowed you to get out of the battle, retreat, or otherwise crawl around while stunned.
Thanks to great editing, this definition was changed in RM Companion II (what a thing to slip through the cracks). Suddenly, you got to use Stunned Maneuvering to “remove” rounds of stun!
When I pointed this out to the managing editor, he was appalled! Well, long story becomes short…
In the RMFRP there are now two skills: Stun Removal (see the RMFRP, page 125) and Stunned Maneuvering (see the upcoming Character Law). Now we can all be happy…
John W. Curtis III
Rolemaster Series Editor
Electronic Media Director
Iron Crown Enterprises, Inc”.
There is a minor change in section 8.3 (17.2 in RMSS) on Outfitting.
The description of what your character gets for starting armor has been changed to:
“One suit of armor corresponding to the armor skill for which he has the highest skill rank. he must have a skill rank of at least one in this armor skill”
The previous phrasing was:
“One suit of armor if his appropriate adjusted Armor skill bonus for that armor is -10 or higher”
This change of phrasing prevents characters that normally wouldn’t wear plate mail from buying one rank in Plate Mail just so they have something expensive that they can sell.
There is a typo of no real significance on page 55 but I noticed it so I thought I would include it. The second paragraph refers to the example character Trenket. Everywhere else Trenket is refered to as “she” and “her” but this sentence contains “his” instead.
I didn’t go through the Spells at all as the new Spell Law books are due out shortly and will be replacing what is in this book anyway.
I also didn’t go through line by line in every section, so there could easily be items I missed. Please drop me a note, or post to the discussion area if you noticed anything I missed.
Overall, I think this book is very well done, but once the other core books are available, most of what is in this book will have been replaced by more detailed information. If you are looking for the basics in one book, then pick this up. If you all ready own RMSS, then you won’t really need this book and may want to wait for the later books, particularly Character Law.