All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG

I have only just discovered The Witcher RPG from R Talsorian Games. Actually, I have only read the first two Witcher books so far. I only discovered them in March this year. I am obviously well behind the curve.

The full Witcher RPG is a 300+ page single volume rulebook that covers everything you need.

If you wanted to have a play there is also a quickstart version called Witcher: Easy Mode.

My taste in games these days is for ever simpler rules. This game is certainly not rules heavy by any means but at the same time it feels a little disjointed. The characters are nice and simple and the character sheet is well laid out which keeps things simple in play. The skill system is nice and easy, roll a dice, add your skill and get over the target number. So far so good.

Then we get to combat. It feels like combat was written by a different author. As there are two writers on this game that is entirely possible. All the speed and elegance of the skill system disappears and instead we get a seven step process for rolling an attack doing your damage. You need to roll your attack, then you roll damage and you may need to double it. You roll for hit location and then you may need to triple it or maybe halve it depending on where you hit. Then you have dodging, blocking and armour to take into account. Once you do hit there is a critical wound system, I am a Rolemaster fan so criticals are fine by me!

When we get to magic we are back into simple territory again. Ever spell description contains everything you need from a description of the effect, any damage, ranges and so on. They have pride of place on the character sheet and there is a good variety of spells. My favourite is Earthen Spike that rips a stalagmite out of the ground and up into your intended target. Too often I read spells and they just seem like reworkings of D&D spells but that is not the case here.

The bundled adventure looks well thought out and designed to test drive all the sample characters and give each their moment in the spotlight.

All in all I am impressed with the game, the interpretation of the setting and the presentation. I think combat could be slicker but to balance that it is hard to imagine a game detailed enough to bring the setting to life that could be any less detailed. The Easy Mode version is free for you to take a look at and play the sample adventure, the full game is $24.99 for the PDF but DrivethruRPG are about to start their Christmas in July sale in about 2 weeks time so you may well pick it up cheaper. Either way it is worth the money if you are a Witcher fan and want a new fantasy game to play with.

Thinking about Adventures

Normally when I create adventures for my players I know everything what has happened before, I know the characters back stories, I know their style of play and what the players enjoy. I take all of these and roll them into an adventure that everyone will enjoy.

Over the past six months I have been writing a set of adventures each is published monthly and they link together to form one much larger adventure.

What I wanted to avoid was railroading. Although the first adventure had to come first as it introduced the story and the second installment was the most logical thing to do next and it was what the NPC mentor figure would desire. Beyond that all the other parts could be played in any order, or skipped entirely. They could be skipped entirely, spaced out with other adventures or played back to back. 

When I set out this seemed like a great idea but I am now five episodes in I have learned a few lessons.

Why be simple?

The target system is the new (beta) edition of Rolemaster. This game is due for release in 2019 but as with many ‘new’ games there will be very few adventures available for the game because all the effort has gone into creating the game, not supporting material. So, I also thought I would all the adventures backwardly compatible with both Rolemaster Classic and Rolemaster FRP so that the adventures are playable now.

As with most fantasy RPGs there is a definite European/medieval bias built into the game with castles, plate mail and heavy war horses abounding. Rolemaster’s default setting is Shadow World which varies between medieval and nearing renaissance periods but is still very eurocentric. 

So to be different I have set these adventures in a south east asian-esque setting with hints of buddhist temples, tangled jungle paths and commerce by river using canoes. Mountains are terraced with crops stepping down the valleys.

I wanted monks and ninjas. I wanted dragons and demons. What I didn’t want was just another ‘oriental adventure’. I have dodged Japan and I think I have landed somewhere in a fantasy Vietnam or possibly Cambodia. 

The result is that alongside creating adventures where I don’t the mix of characters, I don’t know their level, their play style or what they have already don’t, I also now have to create the entire world before them. 

One month I found myself having to include in the adventure some simple random tables to be able to create a random town with suitable name, industries and NPCs all in keeping with this minimalist setting. All that just to let the players walk about and meet people.

H, A and Relative Level

I don’t know if you know about ‘H’ when setting encounters. This is not my invention. I think I first encountered it while playing 7th Sea. The letter H represents the number of heroes in the party. Once you know that you can describe the number of foes encountered relative to H. For example 2H means twice as many foes as there are heroes. ½H means half as many and H+1 would mean one more foe than their are heroes.

The beauty of H is that I no longer need to know how many PCs are in the party. H replaces the number encountered dice roll, which I think is a good thing. The problem with number encountered/No. Appearing is that if the book says 2d8 Zombies (for example), 2 Zombies may be no challenge at all but 16 could be a TPK. When setting the value for H you can decide on the threat level while writing the adventure and know that it will remain true for all parties.

Meet A

‘A’ is my own invention, or if someone got their first then I arrived at A on my own. A represents the Average level of the PCs in the party. Rolemaster is a leveled game so this will always be relevant. In these adventures I don’t know if they are being played back to back so the players level will be fairly low or if they are being interspersed with other adventures so the characters have leveled up many more times.

I can use A to describe NPCs. ½A means the NPC is half the level of the party average, A+2 means that the NPC is two levels higher than the average. In the most recent adventure in the series there are lots of evil priests running around and most are A-2 but the high priestess is A+2.

Rolemaster comes with tables of stock NPCs at a wide range of levels so you can easily look up the number of hit points and the skill levels of an NPC of any profession at any level. A means you can vary the threat level regardless of the level of characters.

What’s in the box?

Relative level is another invention of mine. I broadly defined four levels, low, mid, high and very high. This describes the party’s level as a whole. Roughly speaking low is 1st to 5th level and each band is 5 levels wide.

The reason for this is all to do with monsters. When you open a crypt any number of Zombies is not going to worry a party made of 20th level characters. On the other extreme, the same crypt containing a single Vampire is a death sentence for any number of first level characters.

At the top of each adventure I have a small table where I have my four relative levels and I create a label for each role played by a foe. In the current adventure I have alongside servants, guards and priests I have set up a chase scene through the jungle. Rolemaster has five different types of genie from Jann at 2nd level, Jinn at 5th level right up to Marid at 20th level. I can now create a label called ‘hunter’ and use that label throughout the text and the GM knows that for his low level party the hunter is a 2nd level Jann type genie. For a very high level party the hunter would be a 20th level Marid.

Now my high priestess can release her genie to capture the characters with impunity. I don’t need to know anything about the party to set the challenge.

Making an Entrance

The final thing I have had to do is tell the GM what, if anything, needs to be in place when or before the adventure begins. If the characters need horses for a scene to work or have to be in a small river village then it is just common courtesy to warn the GM in advance. They can then work this into their game naturally.

Conclusion

This has been an interesting learning curve in avoiding railroading. In the past I have thought in terms of scenes vs locations. With scenes you end up creating far more scenes than you will ever need because some may never happen, they are depending on the players actions. With locations the characters can visit them in any sequence and they remain constant. No one is forced to visit location A before B before C. I kind of like scenes and tend to treat locations as just broad strokes and let the GM elaborate as their players act within the location.

Now I can describe an objective and the challenges the characters could face and everything else just wraps itself around the party.

I don’t know if these tools will work for your or your favourite game but I hope you find them useful.

Tiny Trove

A couple of years ago, when I started blogging, here I was getting interested in trying out much lighter rules systems than the Rolemaster which is my groups stable fare. I was given many suggestions and on the list was TinyD6 and Tiny Dungeon. 

I never wrote about Tiny Dungeon because at the same time I discovered Adventurers! and the one overshadowed the other.

This week Gallant Knight Games opened a Community Content Program for Tiny Dungeon (Tiny Frontiers and their other settings rae to follow). What this should mean is that there is going to be a whole raft of new titles for the TinyD6 system.

At the time of writing there are four titles available, three of which were already there when the program started. I guess they didn’t want an empty page. There was one submission yesterday, less than 24hrs after the launch of the program. In addition there are document templates for developers to use to make their work look like all the other Tiny Dungeon books and a sampling of free art to illustrate your PDF books.

If you are a fan of Tiny Dungeon then it is certainly going to be worth your while to check out Tiny Trove