The Philosophy of Professions
 Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell 1998

 1. Introduction

    From the beginning of Rolemaster to the last Companion, over one hundred professions were published in the core rules and the various Companions of RM2. Many of these professions were simply variations on existing templates, some were only useful in particular settings, and some were seriously unbalanced with respect to the rest of the system.

    With the advent of RMSS, Rolemaster has entered a new phase in its evolution.  The legacy of professions bequeathed by RM2 represents an existing creative investment which should not be spurned, yet must be treated with caution. The rebirth of professions is one of the most contentious parts of RMSS design, with authors, editors, gamemasters and players having vociferous opinions concerning which professions should be revised and what sort of revision is appropriate.

    The aim of this article is not to discuss the details of profession design as currently implemented in RMSS, but to propose a theoretical framework for constructing professions suitable for fantasy genres.

2. Areas of Proficiency

    In Rolemaster, professions are traditionally classified according to their degree of spell proficiency (Pure, Semi, Hybrid and Non) and the realm(s) of power in which they focus. Thus the Wizard is normally described as a Pure spell user of Arcane, the Dabbler as a Semi spell user of Essence, the Astrologer as a Hybrid spell user of Channeling and Mentalism, and the Thief as a Non spell user or a Pure Arms user.

    An alternative proposal is to consider the fantasy genre to have specific "areas of proficiency" with every profession specializing in one or two of these areas. Four of these "areas of proficiency" are the existing realms of power, namely Arcane, Channeling, Essence, and Mentalism. The other three areas are "Arms", "Subterfuge", and "Mundane". "Arms" represents training which concentrates on the skills of combat, using normal weapons or martial arts. "Subterfuge" represents training which concentrates on the skills of stealth, such as stalking, lock picking, disguise and so forth. The final proficiency is that of "Mundane", which covers training in any normal occupation of a fantasy setting, such as farmer, craftsman, trader, etc., and will be the diffuse focus of the vast majority of the populace.

    Professions can then be instantiated as either archetypes of a single area of proficiency or as combinations of two areas of proficiency with the training divided between the two interests. Both the Magician and the Illusionist professions are archetypes of the Essence proficiency. The Paladin profession combines the Channeling proficiency with an equal interest in Arms proficiency, whereas the Ranger combines Channeling with Subterfuge.

    Table 1 classifies almost all the professions so far introduced in the RMSS by areas of proficiency. The reasons for the omissions of the Chaotic and the Bard will be explained later. Entries in the table with a question mark denote combinations of proficiencies which lack an extant RMSS profession. "N/A" entries in the table denote pairings of proficiencies which are inappropriate. "Alch." is an abbreviation for Alchemist.

    Some of the proficiencies can be combined, some cannot. Arcane can be combined with Arms or Subterfuge, but Arcane cannot be combined with any other realm of power as Arcane magic is the undivided magic of the other three realms. No area of proficiency can be paired with Mundane as all of the other areas demand a different level of commitment from the character. A commitment to any realm of power or to becoming a warrior or thief supersedes the normal occupations covered by the Mundane proficiency.
Table 1 - Areas of Proficiency
Arcane Arcanist
N/A N/A N/A ? Magehunter N/A
Essence - Essence Alch.
Mana Molder
Warrior Mage
Core Monk
Tao Monk
Dabbler N/A
Channeling - - Animist
Channeling Alch.
Mentalism - - - Lay Healer
Mentalism Alch.
Zen Monk
Magent N/A
Arms - - - - Fighter
Warrior Monk
Subterfuge - - - - - Thief N/A
Mundane - - - - - - Layman

    A character with a serious interest in acquiring normal weapon expertise would likely become a Fighter. If the character divided his focus between the Arms and Subterfuge specialties, the Rogue profession would best express the lifestyle. There is no extant RMSS profession which expresses the Warrior Monk-Thief hybrid - the design of a suitable "Ninja" is left as an exercise for the reader!

    The Martial Arts Companion introduced two variant Monk professions, the Tao Monk for the realm of Essence and the Zen Monk for the realm of Mentalism. Should Monk variants exist for the realms of Channeling and Arcane as well? Arcane magic in RMSS is dangerous, difficult to control, arduous to learn, and rare. The levels of exact control over one's body achieved by the existing Monk professions demand the precise mastery only available to practitioners of the other realms. However a Channeling variant would be a plausible addition to the system - the Dervish profession from Rolemaster Companion II might provide some inspiration for the Channeling base lists.

    The Chaotic is a Semi spell user of Arcane, who is completely "self-taught", learning magic by trial and error, rather than from learned tomes or wise mentors. As such, the Chaotic has only four base lists and must always make a spell casting static maneuver (at a penalty) due to his lack of control. It is the lack of control that makes the Chaotic a Semi spell user - there is no diversion of interest into Arms or Subterfuge to rob the profession of Pure spell user status. The choice is whether to make an exception for the Chaotic within the framework or to propose an alternative implementation for players who wish to use the concept. One philosophical objection to the Chaotic profession is every Chaotic character will have access to identical spell lists, even though each character is supposed to be developing magical prowess in isolation. It also feels dubious that all such characters develop Arcane magic. A Chaotic Lifestyle training package (TP) giving access to one to three spell lists selected from a pool would lead to greater individuality in such characters.

    It is the opinion of this author that there is no legitimate place for a Chaotic profession within the framework. There is however an empty slot for an Arms-Arcane profession.

    The other omission from the framework is the Bard, which is a Semi spell user of Mentalism. The Bard's other proficiency is certainly not Arms, and the Magent already exists as the Mentalism-Subterfuge hybrid. A close inspection of the Bardic base lists reveals a dual interest in "song magic" and lores, and this author would suggest that the interest in lores is unnecessary to the Bardic concept. The Bard would be better fractured into two lifestyle training packages: a lore-based TP such as the Sage (introduced in the Mentalism Companion), and a "Spellsinger" TP with two spell lists containing the most useful spells from Controlling Songs, Sound Control, and Sound Projection.

3. Using the Framework

    Using the framework to justify future additions to the set of professions and recommend deletions is all very well in itself, but it can also assist in reducing the "boggle factor" of character creation, and preventing abuses of the training package system.

3.1 Impact Upon Professions

    Firstly, professions in RMSS consist of a paragraph of introductory description, a set of professional bonuses, Everyman Occupational Restricted (E/O/R) skills, skill category costs, and a set of base spell lists where appropriate. The Development Point (DP) costs for the training packages are based upon the skill category costs for the most part. The skill category system has reduced much of the variation in costs between similar professions (compare Animist and Cleric or Arcanist and Wizard), with professional bonuses, E/O/R classifications and spell lists bearing most of the burden of maintaining separate professional identities. Nevertheless there is some remaining variation and of course this means that the DP costs for each training package must be painstakingly calculated. There are about forty professions already in RMSS but there are already well over 150 training packages (ignoring those in genre books) and no end to the expansion in sight.

Clearly things are getting out of hand.

    The proposed framework suggests a solution. Instead of having a distinct set of skill category costs for each profession, average the existing costs for each profession in the viable slots of Table 1 to produce a single set of costs. Even if the three hypothetical professions are counted, this produces only 24 sets of costs, a significant reduction. The key point is that this represents a maximum. To add a new profession to RMSS, its area(s) of proficiency must be determined and the appropriate set of costs assigned. The new profession also inherits the DP costs for TPs associated with those costs.

    (Instead of averaging the skill category costs for all the professions in a given slot of Table 1, a representative set could be chosen (e.g. the Mentalist from the four Pure Mentalism users) which would remove the need to recalculate TP costs).

    Certain training packages should cost less for specific professions - this could be implemented by adding a "Professional Qualifier" to the TP definitions allowing characters belonging to a specific profession an absolute or percentage reduction in DP cost.

3.2 Impact Upon Training Packages

    Many RM2 professions, especially amongst the spell users, were simply variants of existing professions, with at best one or two new spell lists (the rest being permutations and recombinations of existing lists). Many of the non-spell user "professions" have been converted into training packages. Many of the spell user "professions" could profitably be converted into training packages with one or two associated revised spell lists, retaining the character concept (a policy vigorously pursued in Mentalism Companion).

    The danger is that training packages are available to any profession under existing RMSS rules, and so regardless of the deterrent of exorbitant DP costs for unfortunate conjunctions of profession and training package, rules lawyers will be able to claim that min-maxing pairings are legal.

    The solution is to consider all training packages to be extensions of the areas of proficiency, and so restrict access to those professions which share at least one area of proficiency. (The gamemaster naturally retaining the right to waive the restrictions in special circumstances). Table 2 suggests which areas of proficiency are extended by all of the existing non-racial and non-genre training packages. For instance the Dreamweaver TP is listed as Mentalism, and so should be restricted to professions which are either Pure Mentalism, Mentalism-Channeling, Mentalism-Essence, Arms-Mentalism, or Subterfuge-Mentalism. The Doctor TP is listed as "Any" and so should be available to any profession. The Con Man TP is listed as "Subterfuge preferred" and so should be restricted normally to characters with an official focus on Subterfuge, but characters of certain other professions (namely the Mystic and the Enchanter) should be allowed to take the training package - all such exceptions are at GM discretion.

Table 2 - Training Packages
Training Package Book Area(s) of Proficiency
Adventurer (RMSR) Any
Amateur Mage (RMSR) Any
Animal Friend (RMSR) Any
Assassin (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Berserker (RMSR) Arms
Burglar (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
City Guard (RMSR) Arms preferred
Cloistered Academic (RMSR) Any
Con Man (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Crafter (RMSR) Any
Crusading Academic (RMSR) Any
Cut Purse (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Detective (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Diplomat (RMSR) Any
Doctor (RMSR) Any
Explorer (RMSR) Any
Guardian (RMSR) Arms preferred
Herbalist (RMSR) Any
Highwayman (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Hunter (RMSR) Arms, Subterfuge
Knight (RMSR) Arms
Loremaster (RMSR) Any
Martial Artist (RMSR) Arms
Mercenary (RMSR) Arms
Performer (RMSR) Any
Philosopher (RMSR) Any
Sailor (RMSR) Any
Scout (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Shaman Priest (RMSR) Channeling
Soldier (RMSR) Arms preferred
Spy (RMSR) Subterfuge preferred
Traveller (RMSR) Any
Wanderer (RMSR) Any
Weapon Master (RMSR) Arms
Zealot (RMSR) Channeling preferred
Conjuror (ArcCo) Essence, Channeling, Arcane
Famulus (ArcCo) Any
Manipulator (ArcCo) Mentalism, Arcane
Necromancer (ArcCo) Channeling, Arcane
Runemaster (ArcCo) Essence, Channeling, Arcane
Warlock (ArcCo) Mentalism, Channeling, Arcane
Advisor (C&R) Any
Antagonist (C&R) Any
Apothecary (C&R) Any
Architect (C&R) Any
Archaeologist (C&R) Any
Artificer (C&R) Essence preferred
Astronomer (C&R) Any
Chaplain (C&R) Channeling
Cloistered Zealot (C&R) Channeling
Court Magician (C&R) Essence, Mentalism
Duelist (C&R) Arms
Engineer (C&R) Essence preferred
Executioner (C&R) Any
Grave Robber (C&R) Subterfuge preferred
Groom (C&R) Any
Inventor (C&R) Any
Jester (C&R) Subterfuge preferred
Laborer (C&R) Any
Magic Crafter (C&R) Essence preferred
Political (C&R) Any
Prophet (C&R) Channeling
Romantic (C&R) Any
Servitor (C&R) Any
Siege Engineer (C&R) Any
Troubadour (C&R) Any
Vizier (C&R) Mentalism
Arms Instructor (MarCo) Arms
Bodyguard (MarCo) Arms preferred
Caravan Guard (MarCo) Arms preferred
Chi Master (MarCo) Arms
Martial Artist (MarCo) Arms
Martial Arts Challenger (MarCo) Arms
Martial Arts Champion (MarCo) Arms
Martial Arts Opera Performer (MarCo) Arms preferred
Ninja (MarCo) Subterfuge, Arms
School Master (MarCo) Arms
Secret Society Member (MarCo) Subterfuge preferred
Martial Arts Street Performer (MarCo) Any
Temple Monk (MarCo) Arms
Wandering Monk (MarCo) Arms
Warrior Priest (MarCo) Arms
Weapon Master (MarCo) Arms
Amateur Mage (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Animal Handler (EssCo) Any
Arachnamancer (EssCo) Essence
Catalyst Collector (EssCo) Any
Corpist Caster (EssCo) Essence
Crystalist Caster (EssCo) Essence
Demonologist (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Guild Apprentice (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Hedge Wizard (EssCo) Essence
Herbalist Caster (EssCo) Essence
Journeying Apprentice (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Librarian (EssCo) Any
Nomenist Caster (EssCo) Essence
Potioner (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Spell Researcher (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Spell Student (EssCo) Essence, Mentalism, Arcane, Channeling
Chancellor (ChanCo) Channeling
Cultist (ChanCo) Channeling
Inquisitor (ChanCo) Channeling, Arms, Subterfuge
Medic (ChanCo) Channeling
Medium (ChanCo) Channeling
Minister (ChanCo) Channeling
Missionary (ChanCo) Channeling
Pilgrim (ChanCo) Channeling preferred
Protector (ChanCo) Channeling
Templar (ChanCo) Channeling, Arms
Theurgist (ChanCo) Channeling
Witch (ChanCo) Channeling
Beastmaster (MentCo) Mentalism, Channeling, Essence
Charlatan (MentCo) Mentalism
Dream Traveller (MentCo) Mentalism
Dreamweaver (MentCo) Mentalism
Fortune Teller (MentCo) Any 
Hermit (MentCo) Any
Houri (MentCo) Mentalism
Mariner (MentCo) Mentalism preferred
Oracle (MentCo) Mentalism, Channeling
Physician (MentCo) Mentalism preferred
Protégé (MentCo) Mentalism, Essence, Arcane, Channeling 
Sage (MentCo) Mentalism
Note: The abbreviations refer to the following books in the RMSS:

RMSR - Rolemaster Standard Rules
ArcCo - Arcane Companion
C&R - Castles & Ruins
MarCo - Martial Arts Companion
EssCo - Essence Companion
ChanCo - Channeling Companion
MentCo - Mentalism Companion

4. Concluding Remarks

This proposal would limit the number of profession templates in the fantasy genre of Rolemaster to a maximum of 24, but would not prevent new professions from being added. New professions would differ in terms of professional bonuses, E/O/R classifications of skills and in spell lists. Whilst some loss of realism would occur due to the standardization of skill category costs, more generous E/O/R classifications of appropriate skills would minimize this.