Unified Rolemaster Playtest

Rolemaster I have to admit I still have fond memories of the long Rolemaster campaign a friend of mine has run back when I was at university. Rolemaster is one of those quite crunchy games we enjoyed to play back in the day. Actually it’s was not so bad during play, but character creation usually took ages. Also levelling up was always something that took quite a while.

What I totally loved were the awesome critical hit tables. Our GM definitely enjoyed describing the results of these critical effects in a lot of details, and everyone at the game table had a lot of fun. Even though I now prefer games with much lighter rulesets, I still believe that Rolemaster is an interesting alternative to other fantasy roleplaying games. And if you don’t try to squeeze every optional rule into your game it’s actually less crunchy than some other games out there.

A while back, I.C.E. announced that they are currently working on a new, unified Rolemaster edition and in order to make it the best Rolemaster yet, they are conducting an open playtest. If you’re interested in playtesting the new Rolemaster, just head to the official forums and download the Character Law and Spell Law documents.

I am not sure, if I’ll actually have the time to give the new Rolemaster a try anytime soon, but it’s definitely worth a look.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

3 thoughts on “Unified Rolemaster Playtest”

  1. back in the mid 80’s my high school game group slowly shifted from AD&D 1e to RoleMaster. And I, being interested in sci-fi gaming, also picked up SpaceMaster. I loved RM/SM. We also had MERP, for tying things into Middle Earth, but quickly realized RM was sort of “Advanced MERP” or maybe MERP was “Basic RM”.

    I continued to be a big fan of RM/SM until 1989. I could see ways to do just about every gaming setting, and several non-gaming settings (Aliens, Dune, etc.) using those rules. But, something happened over the summer of 1989. I was at DragonCon, and a naval war gamer challenged me that if I need more than 1 sheet of paper (4 pages) for rules, for a war game, then that was too many. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t get away from the idea of minimalism.

    Though, he was an extreme-minimalist. Minimalism isn’t “the least”. It’s “what is necessary, but nothing more AND nothing less”.

    This lead me down the path of MERP, a minimalist version of RoleMaster. And about that time, I was also getting into Cyberpunk (I even knew, on-line, one of the co-authors of the 1st edition: Colin Fisk). And, that same summer, Cyberspace came out. Cyberspace (CS) wasn’t just “MERP rules adapted to Cyberpunk”, it could be used for any near-future sci-fi setting. And with a little tweaking, it could be used for any sci-fi setting. And that’s what i did. I also adapted multi-classing rules (basically, the same rules as d20 3.75: just pick a profession every time you gain a level), and mixing MERP and CS (for Shadowrun type games, or even Star Wars type games).

    Through the early 90’s, I loved that combination. But, then, they went out of print. 10 years later, the new ICE realized that they wanted a new version of “RoleMaster lite”, but they didn’t resurrect the Cyberspace rule set… they created an entirely new one (HARP). HARP is fine, but, it’s not really my cup of tea. It doesn’t give you as much flexibility in customizing professions nor mixing them, and you pay more in order to multi-class. It’s fine, but it’s no MERP/CS. For various reasons, I just never really got into it.

    And that’s my reason for never having really gone back to RM/SM — I greatly prefer minimalist games anymore. When I want to play something heavier, d20 3.x is about as heavy as I want to get (and that has the advantage of being the “common RPG platform”). Someone on the ICE forums noted a comparison between RMU and MERP, and so I had to look into it. RMU is nothing like MERP, it’s just a new edition of RM (that’s not “bad”, I’m just saying, it’s not a “lite” game, the way MERP was).

    But,what I really wish they would do, is take some of HARP’s good things (scalable spells, spells as skills, and talents), and apply those to the MERP/CS mechanics. I think that would have been a better direction. I just don’t see myself ever going back to RM/SM… nor using HARP for anything other than “inspiration for gadgets/powers/skills to use in my Fudge game”.

  2. I have the playtest docs and while I’ve only given them a cursory glance, it really does look like a “unified” Rolemaster, or at least a try at one. Should be good news for RM fans.

    johnkzin, did you ever play the “Lord of the Rings Adventure Game” that ICE released? It used a rather minimal 2d6 condensation of the MERP rules (themselves “RM Lite” as you noted). I’m going to be releasing a retro-clone based on it very soon, with Stargazer’s help.

  3. No, I never played the “Lord of the Rings Adventure game”. I think by the time they released it, I had moved on from ICE’s rule sets, and was focused more on FUDGE and how to use it to make DreamPark a more playable game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.