< Rolemaster Professions in MERP: Editions One and Two

Rolemaster Professions in MERP: Editions One and Two

Copyright ©2000 Anthony Almeida
Edited for The Guild Companion by Joe Mandala

Here, at the beginning of that thing called Rolemaster, was where we first saw the types of professions that we could expand to in our MERP game. The potential for choosing a spell-using profession was pretty good, seeing that they outnumbered the Arms professions 3-to-1. Several of these were translated directly into the MERP rules, often intact. The Warrior had always been the Fighter, the Mage was just the Magician with a slight name change, and the Ranger was always the Ranger. We saw a new realm of magic - Mentalism - and saw the blending of realms in the Hybrid spell-users. The skills characters could access were expanded, mainly with regard to secondary skills, and background options were more varied, allowing a player to give a little more background to the part he played. Statistics varied more as well, and, for the first time, one actually had the opportunity to increase character stats to predetermined potential levels. It was a lot to take in, but the changes were exciting.
In the MERP modules and sourcebooks, many of the professions from RM1/RM2 were used and abused (the number of barmaid-Thieves was staggering), and it seemed OK to make use of any and all in making characters. Thankfully, the Middle-earth writings and not the modules are still there to measure these decisions by. Let's examine them carefully, with the rating scale of 0-5 mentioned in the introduction.


The Arms user isn't a realm of magic at all, but rather a classification of those professions that chose to devote themselves to common, non-magical pursuits, whether it be a craftsman, soldier, mercenary, martial artist, or footpad. These would be considered those professions most common and most mundane. Skills are the way they make their living, and the supernatural is foreign or of little use to them.

  • Fighter: 0
    Defined as the arms specialist, this profession represents those trained in combat arts, whether they are guards, soldiers, mercenaries or levymen. The fighter exists to make its living in the way of war or the enforcement of the will of their ruler/commander. He exists in almost all societies, from the lordly Elves to the 'lesser' men to the stolid Dwarves, and is the profession least likely to use (or even be aware of) magic.
    In Middle-earth, the profession is quite common, perhaps due to the continual strife that has endured since the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. Whether aggressor or defender, a skilled warrior has always come in handy, protecting the land against an invader or being the invader oneself. The kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor maintained standing armies at all times, as both the threats of Sauron and the King's Men necessitated. Warcraft was also common among the Northmen of Rhovanion and of Eriador, the former due to the Easterling threat (being warlike themselves) and the latter due to the threat of the Witch-king and his host. The Dwarves trained to fight fiercely to hold on to the kingdoms they had and were fierce in battle. The Elves of Lindon kept what army they could keep mustered, due to the Sauronic threat they knew all too well through the Wise, and the Elven of Lorien and Greenwood trained extensively to protect lands that were constantly under the scrutiny of the Shadow. Even Hobbits knew the value of warfare, even though they were not warlike by nature; Tolkien noted with no hesitation their skill with missile weapons, and even wrote "If any Hobbit stooped for a stone, it was well to get quickly under cover, as all trespassing beasts knew very well." (FotR, p.26) As it can be easily observed, this profession is more than appropriate.
  • Thief: 0
    A specialist in maneuvering and manipulating, the thief is a profession that has chosen the more subtle arts to accomplish his way in the world. Whether a burglar, spy, scout, or a bandit, the thief shuns direct confrontation, preferring stealthier methods. He is at home in an urban or outdoor setting, and is skilled in getting out of situations that lead to a clash of arms by the more obvious fighter.
    We see the concept of the thief in the Ring Trilogy, mainly performed by Hobbits drawn into the plot, and it is important to recognize exactly where they apply in this world. It is safe to say that thieves do abound where the opportunities are greatest. For example, they abound in cities, not only due to the wealth that is there but also due to the people gathered there (without whom there would be no wealth). In the wild, they are found in the company of mercenary armies and bandit groups, plying their skill to ambush or spy on their mark. If the thief happens to find magical means to make a task easier, he is better prepared than the fighter to recognize it, but such a thing is still rather foreign to him. This type of profession is found more of Men, and examples can be seen, whether among the brigands that King Elessar routs from Tharbad or Sharkey's Men. It is up to the player to decide if his character's efforts will be as ignoble as those, however.
  • Rogue: 0
    This profession falls pretty squarely between the fighter and the thief, as he has training in both combat and stealth, although it will never compare to either. This is a flexible profession with a great many applications, whether as a scout, a spy, a woodland warrior, or a brigand. The possibility for a rogue as a character covers several ideas, from the criminal to the noble.
    Several examples can be seen in the Middle-earth writings. Once again, the brigands of Tharbad and Saruman's henchmen in the Shire are obvious, but one might even consider the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood or Faramir's soldiers in Ithilien or even the Rangers of the North (as I'm sure very many were not spell-users). The ability for an individual to fight and to use the element of stealth have always been invaluable to either Good or Evil, and there is plenty of call for this profession in Middle-earth.
  • Warrior Monk: 2
    This profession is designed to utilize specific unarmed attack styles and quick maneuvering in combat, and trains extensively in those fields. It is mainly a profession that is monastic or school-based, and is not generally found as a common element of society.
    In Middle-earth, the profession is not spoken of at all, not even once. This is where one would need to be careful, as, in a world where the majority of combat is settled by wielded arms and armor, the warrior monk does not fit into the mold. Exceptions can be imagined however, in the form of a tribal wrestler or a skilled traveling boxer/brawler. What should not be seen is David Carradine coming up from the horizon, bald-headed and dressed in martial arts attire; that type is not presented and, therefore, not viable in this world.
  • No Profession: 1
    This profession is the 'jack-of-all-trades,' having near equal abilities in all areas, except magic. While a master of no profession, he has equal room to dabble a little in everything. If he encounters magic at all, he is better prepared to learn of it than the others in the Arms group, but any knowledge will be feeble.
    This one might see use in Middle-earth for the player that doesn't feel his character leans in any particular direction. Such a profession might have been a good one for Bilbo Baggins who, while labeled a burglar, was actually little more than your average eccentric Hobbit. As it was, he ended up a writer, despite all the adventures and roles that he had.


    In the area of semi-spell users, we begin to see spell use in professions, combined with the use of weapon craft. Like the rogue, they combine the attributes of both a spell-user and a fighter, but will not compare to either in pure ability. These are good professions for Elves and the Peredhil, as these are used to the presence of magic in their lives, even without being aware that what they use is 'magic.' The three types from RM1/RM2 follow.

  • Monk: 4
    This profession uses the spells of the Essence realm, in more covert and internally directed ways, in combination with the skills of a warrior monk. The magic he uses enhances his ability to move and fight, allowing him to perform outside of the norm, doing amazing things.
    Yet, as with the Warrior Monk, Middle-earth does not identify this profession in its traditional form. To have a skilled hand fighter is unlikely, but to have one with magical ability behind the "judo chop" is something unknown in this world. If an exception is to be made, I cannot see it.
  • Ranger: 2
    The ranger serves to combine the ways of the wild and combat with magic of the Channeling realm. This is the type of character that knows the outdoors with skill, both natural and unnatural. The magic he uses is rarely seen, as it focuses on the attunement the ranger has with his environment. Following a ranger in the wilderness gives a party an exceptional chance for survival.
    Since this is what is first expected, I shall comment on it first: the Ranger of the North. Granted while several of this profession, especially Aragorn and his ancestry, would receive the gift of being a ranger, it's my belief that few Rangers were rangers. While these men had extraordinary talent, the blessing of the Ainur came upon few, and this carried the usual responsibility to the Balance of Things. This ability is carried with a counseled ability to use it with reverence and care, for the Dark would perceive its use, despite its hidden nature. It is also possible that races more reverent to the Valar, knowingly or unknowingly (e.g. a Nando ranger, devoted to Oromë, or a Beorning ranger, devoted to Araw), might also receive the gift, treating it with the same aforementioned reverence. This profession would see great use in the outdoors, but, for the most part, should be reserved for Dúnedain and Elves.
  • Bard: 2
    Whether an unusually gifted minstrel or a blessed tribal skald, the bard combines the use of weapons with the ability to manipulate sound and song. This profession, of the Mentalism realm, uses the power of the mind to imagine, project and understand. Its spells allow it to use voice to more amazing purpose - to comprehend lore and to see the magical secrets in items.
    This is another profession that would see exceptional use in Elves (and possibly Dúnedain). Elves, in particular, understand with great clarity the importance of music and song. They realize that the world was formed through the Great Music of Eru and the Ainur, especially such cultures as the Vanyar, Teleri, Sindar, and Nandor. It may be that 'lesser' Men may be gifted or instructed in such a talent, although this would be of rare occurrence.

    Pure Essence

    The pure spell-users of Essence have gained the ability or training to draw upon the magical forces of the world and mold them to a desired form. These are the most overt type of spell-user, with the results of his magics often easily perceived. The potential for corruption and discovery of such an individual is great, as many of these powers of his are far-reaching and tempting, especially when it comes to those magics which can harm.

  • Magician: 3
    A lot of power is inherent in this profession, as its spells serve primarily to manipulate and project the elements for various purposes, including ranged attacks. The elements it draws from are fire, earth, water, wind, ice, and light. Aside from elemental spells, this profession (as all those of pure Essence) has access to the majority of Essence spells and disciplines (as they can be learned).
    Unfortunately, this profession is held in a lot of suspicion in Middle-earth. He literally tears the elements from their natural place in Arda, and uses them in ways that are not generally intended. He has a greater propensity to defend himself, but his arsenal will likely draw the attention of the Dark, which will, of course, give him more cause to defend himself, etc. It's a safe bet that many of these are actually lured to the thrall of evil. The few that are not corrupt tend to be reserved with their power, and under the tutelage of someone of wise council (perhaps even the Wise).
  • Illusionist: 3
    Another Essence user, this profession chooses to use his power in a more clandestine way, in efforts to mislead and manipulate the senses. While, like the Magician, it also uses the elements, they are only used with respect to those same senses. His spells have a much lesser propensity to do harm, but have still the capacity to lead to harm.
    In Middle-earth, to mislead and misdirect has always been more of a tool of the Dark that the Light. While the Light hides what it intends to hide, with no pretense, the Dark finds it more effective to not only hide but also to give the viewer something false to see. For example, the Witch-King, I am sure, was so rapt with his newfound power in the Ring he received, that he failed to notice both Sauron's intention and the shackle that his trinket actually was. Illusion can have its beneficial use, however, in the areas of infiltration, escape and entertainment. The 'creation' of a tool, a bridge, or other item when necessary, can be helpful without being overtly or covertly evil. It is the intention of use of these spells that will determine whether corruption will occur.
  • Alchemist: 4
    One of the more rare spell-users, he uses his craft for the production of temporary and permanent enchantments on items. Also, this profession can manipulate magical materials, which are commonly beyond the hope of common smiths and craftsmen to work.
    This type of spell-user will be extremely rare in the Third Age of Middle-earth, unless one has discovered a lost skill such as this or (more likely) in a Noldo. While Men and Dwarves and Hobbits have their craft and skill, the Alchemist profession goes far beyond the norms, and can produce magical items, which are already quite rare in Middle-earth. I believe that the main reason this profession would not see use in game-play is because of its tendency to be 'tied down', so to speak. Consider an Alchemist on a standard adventure. His magical skills do not at all work quickly, and his combat and maneuver skills are really nothing to fall back on. He cannot simply say, "Wait, while I enchant a magic sword; then, we shall fight." It is best that this one stay in the smith halls of the Mirdain.

    Pure Channeling

    For good or ill, these spell-users gain their magical ability from the divine forces that they serve, and there is no in-between; either their power is blessed by the Ainur or given them by the Shadow. In either case, such a source of power may be cut off, at the discretion of the same giver. Their magic comes as a result of petition and faith, and is often the most subject to the Balance of Things.

  • Cleric: 3
    This is a profession that has a rather direct connection to the giver of his power, channeling that power directly to provide protection, communion, and the sustaining of life. The restrictions upon the spell use of such a one is greater than other pure Channeling users, due to such a close link.
    Such a profession implies the use of religion, which, by and large, does not exist among the Free Peoples, mainly due to the influences of the Faithful and the Eldar, who had no formal religion. If such a spell-user were empowered by the Valar, the use of power would no doubt be closely monitored, and even denied due to abuse (although corruption would still be applicable). It is possible, however, that those 'lesser' Men who follow 'gods' of their own belief might be permitted the use of power, however unwittingly (e.g. a Daen priestess of Fois (Estë) or a Dwarven priest of Mahal (Aulë)).
  • Animist: 2
    This pure Channeling user uses his gifted power with regards to nature and natural forces, seeking communion with and understanding of the same. The profession is allowed the ability to alter the nature of plants and weather, within acceptable levels, but are content to leave these things be.
    This type of profession sees better potential for use than most spell-users because it has a greater harmony with the olvar and kelvar of Middle-earth. The ability to work within the natural order of things makes this profession a good candidate for keeping the Balance of Things, although preoccupation with nature can also lead to corruption. Consider the example of the Istar Radagast. While he was given the same charge as the other Istari, he "became enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures (UT 390)." This profession can be found among several races, but is often found among the more 'barbaric' cultures, serving in lieu of a cleric as a tribal priest or medicine man (e.g. a Northman priest of Araw).
  • Healer: 2
    This profession has a focused gift in the healing of individuals of a variety of maladies in the entirety of the body, whether internal or external injuries. They also have a greater skill in common, non-spell healing. The one thing that causes this profession to stick out is its ability to transfer injuries and maladies to himself from the patient.
    There may not be a more appropriate spell user one can use in Middle-earth. This one actually has its basis in considering the patient over oneself. The will involved in taking on the burden of another's physical pain involves great courage and caring, and the healer no doubt has the backing of the Valar in his efforts. However, this profession is not easily found, the gift being given to relatively few, and should not be confused with the average chiurgeon.

    Pure Mentalism

    This is a new realm for MERP, which draws to it the Bard, previously of Essence, and gives us some new spell-users, who use the power of the mind to manipulate the magic in the world. This type of power is quite personal, and its scope often affects no more than one person or object. The power generally takes the form of 'reaching out' with a sixth sense of sorts.

  • Mentalist: 3
    The mind is both focus and target of this profession's power, affecting it directly. No other profession is better able to magically control, communicate with and assault the mind. His senses can be extended to perceive what cannot normally be seen by concentration, and the miscellaneous Mentalism spells give him a wide variety of ways to manipulate the Essence.
    While able to accomplish much, this profession very much runs the risk of corruption, due to its ability to influence or attack the mind, which can often be more vulnerable than the body. The use of such tactics has often been a favorite of Sauron and, by extension, his minions, and the temptation to impose upon the mind is great. If such a character is played, corruption will always be a factor.
  • Lay Healer: 3
    The realm of this profession lies in healing diseases and injuries. The difference between this type of healing and that of the Channeling healer is that the lay healer uses the magic of the mind to heal directly, rather than taking on the targeted afflictions.
    Being less 'involved' in the healing of his patient, however, the lay healer has less at stake in the use of his power. This profession is more rare than the Channeling healer, only because there is not such a stress on caring and self-denial. Also, the Prosthetics list is an obvious oddity in Middle-earth, and such a spell list might be reserved for lay healers who are of a race that concentrates on crafts (like the Noldor). While the power used is not very subject to considerations of corruption, it is still subject to detection by the Dark.
  • Seer: 3
    What is unique of this Mentalism user is the way it uses its ability to gather information on a variety of things. He can look into the near future, into the past, and through the senses of another. Also, he uses his ability to see past veils of deception, perceiving the truth of matters. This is a profession often sought out when answers are unclear.
    In Middle-earth, the concept of Fate is stressed highly, especially with regards to Elves, being so closely tied to it as they are. While rare, this is an appropriate profession for interpreting that Fate. The only problem is that there are limits to what is learned, as all of Eru's though is not revealed, even to the Valar. Not even Mandos or Vairë, who understand fate best of all the Valar can claim to know and see all things to come. However, there is no apparent restriction on seeing the events of the past, although matters long past may not appear clearly to the seer. The player choosing this profession must allow the character to practice some intuitive discernment of things.

    Hybrid Realm

    The last professions to follow are those that, by whatever background, have joined two sources/uses of power in their spell-use. While a match for other pure spell users in their own spells, the more general magics from the realms they use are more difficult to master. As with the pure realm casters, however, there is also that same need to check for corrupt use of magic, with perhaps even more care, as there are now two realms to consider.
    Sorcerer: 5
    This spell-user makes use of both Channeling and Essence in their spells, for the purpose of destruction on many different levels. Whether objects or people are his targets, he has ways of dealing with both types. All states of matter (solid, liquid or gaseous) are destroyed with equal ease, as are all aspects of a being (body, mind or soul). This is a type of spell-user to be feared, with no exaggeration.
    Unfortunately, this profession is a rather inappropriate one for Middle-earth players, as that focus on destruction is found entirely with Sauron and his minions. A sorcerer's base spells can never be directed towards good ends, and to use this type of power is tantamount to exceeding corruption of the spirit, at a rate equal to the evil clerics, evil magicians and evil mentalists (who are not covered in this article, for reasons all too obvious). This, of course, is not to say that this profession is useless in Middle-earth. It would make for a challenging minion of the Dark to pit players against.

    Editor's Note

    Please post your comments on this review on the Middle-Earth Discussion Board.

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