Tag Archives: lite rules

Blast from the past?

Not long ago I stumbled upon this old post of Unified Rolemaster Playtest. Obviously I am interested in people opinions of Rolemaster as a house ruled version of Rolemaster is my system of choice.

My only gripe is that Rolemaster has a legacy poor reputation for complexity and bloat, but if you look at Pathfinder by comparison Rolemaster is rather slim. That reputation can be a barrier to introducing new players. All of that is by the by and not particularly relevant to this post anyway. What really struck me was Johnkzin’s comment about the wargamer’s challenge “if I need more than 1 sheet of paper (4 pages) for rules, for a war game, then that was too many“.

I was a little confused by the 1 sheet/4 pages limit, The paper I normally buy comes in 1 sheet/2 pages format but possibly I am buying old fashioned paper or wargame rules are printed in landscape/A5 so you are getting two small pages, sideways on each side or the paper.

Anyway, this year I have a lot of travelling to do so with a home brewed GM Emulator I thought I could do a bit of solo gaming to pass the time. To make things even better I created a 1 sheet/2 page version of Rolemaster to go with it.

There are a few caveats to go with this. Firstly, it is generally accepted in the Rolemaster community (or so it seems) for players to have printed/photocopied pages of all their spell lists as part of their character sheets. This is because characters can have so many spells that they have loads of options and the Spell Law book becomes a bottle neck at the gaming table. Give everyone their own spell lists and you remove that bottle neck. I have assumed the characters have their spell lists. Secondly, These rules are using a good healthy dose of the new RMU rules along with a pinch of the old MERP rules and a bit of 2nd Edition mixed in for good measure. Lastly, there are two notes that should have been included but as I wrote these for myself and I know how this works I didn’t write them down. These are, where you see ### you should insert an appropriate ‘simile’ so that swords slash and cut but maces strike and blow. The location 1-10 is the units die from the attack roll, so an roll of 78 on the d100 uses the ‘8’ and equals abdomen. I hope that makes sense, if not then comment with your questions and I will elaborate.

So with that out of the way, the following two PDF documents, cover a basic combat system with criticals, skill resolution, and spell casting.



If you don’t have any Rolemaster characters then you can basically get by by using a D&D or PF character just start them at 2nd level, every +/-1 on the D20 is a +/-5 on the D100 and give all characters 10 additional hit points. Oh and shields and Dex bonuses do not change your armour class, they get subtracted from the attackers attack roll. Finally, if you get a natural 20 then roll again and add the second roll to the first!

If you have never played Rolemaster and you have a few spare minutes then why not have a play around?

That’s kinda fancy gun work you got there Mister!

Before we start shooting guns out of the bad guy’s hand or put a bullet through a silver dollar tossed into the air I want to take a tiny peek as some of the math and probabilities in this system.

I firmly believe that neither the GM or the Players should ever have to understand the maths that make a system work. If that is the case then there is a design flaw. That is my belief.

Now in some ways Devil’s Staircase has that design flaw. So far I have been running little test plays imagining one on one combats or one on one opposed skills. I tried to recreate the Gunfight at the OK Corral last night and something became apparent really quickly.

You need more than one pack of cards. This is not a big deal in my opinion. If I sat down with a group of friends to play DnD I would want more than one d20. I can buy a pack of cards on Amazon UK for 99p with free delivery. If the typical character is going to have 10 endurance every time you go into a tactical situation you are going to deal them 10 cards. At the end of the scene you throw in your hand and deal another 10 cards. At the start of each adventuring day you will start the day with another 10 cards. In a game session a single player will go through 50 or 60 cards. There are only 54 cards in a deck, 4 suits of 13 cards plus two jokers. In a game session every card will pass though the players hands. But what if you have 5 players. A single deal will use your entire deck. If you then have a few NPCs and villains a single deck is not going to cut it. So you have a couple of options. Either every player has their own deck, like most of us bring our own dice to a game session or the GM has several decks. As a GM you could by a few identical decks in which case you could deal out 3 aces of spades in the same hand. Alternatively you could buy several decks but with very distinct backs so you can easily sort them out. You can then have a deck for the characters and a deck for the villains.

So for all the trick shots I propose that you can play a joker to perform those extraordinary feats of luck or skill. At the start of play there is a slight chance that the character may have a joker stored on their character sheet from when they drew their stats. If you get a joker in your endurance hand you can play it or when the hand is thrown in you can add it to your character sheet. So now if have a small pool of jokers you can play to do those special actions.

The number of jokers in play comes down to the number of players and the number of decks. If for argument sake each player has their own deck and they typically go through 50 or 60 cards per session then each player will almost certainly earn 2 jokers per session, there being 2 jokers in every 54 cards.

If on the other hand the GM holds all the cards and has a deck that is shared amongst the 5 players then every time the hands are dealt someone will probably get a joker. The snag is that everyone knows that über lucky guy. He will get 10 or 12 jokers in a single session and you will probably get none.

If the GM has two, three, four decks in a single super deck from which everyone’s cards a dealt then there is a chance that you could deal 4, 6, or 8 jokers to the same player in a single hand. If your shuffling isn’t very good you could even do that more than once.

In the previous tests, some of the time I was using two decks, one for each protagonist and dealt my own hand each time. Sometimes, when I could rope in a second player, as GM I dealt all the cards. Having the GM deal the cards was more fun. It made the game feel more intimate. There was a physical connection between GM and player. The GM tossed each card at you and you collected them up and looked at your hand. Dealing your own had felt slightly more sterile.

So far, I am leaning towards the GM having two packs of standard cards mixed and shuffled together. 108 cards is not a mammoth amount of cards, it wasn’t too big to shuffle. The number of cards you are dealing out typically diminishes as the session goes on, injuries reduce Endurance so the size of the hand goes down.

The point of this ramble is that how you manage the cards does impact how many jokers the characters will get and how fast they come round. Continue reading That’s kinda fancy gun work you got there Mister!