Rolemaster Professions in MERP: Rolemaster Companions IV through VI
Anthony Almeida ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala for The Guild Companion
Welcome, dear readers, to the next installment of Rolemaster professions in MERP. This time, we will
examine the professions of several companions in an attempt to discover which of them will be suitable
for a MERP game and which will not be. Also, those of you who have made use of the Rolemaster genre books will
find a surprise set of entries at the end of the article. As with the previous articles I've written, I'll keep
the beat moving by continuing from where we left off from the previous treatment of the professions of
Rolemaster Companion III.
See part one
See part two
In the later companions, we see many different experiments and variants among the presented
professions. While most are spell users, we still find some Arms professions that will help
to keep the balance between types. Many of the spell users, such as the Enchanter or the
Forcemage, keep tight specializations within the influence of their spells. This leaves more
options for a spell user to the specific tastes of a player, which helps to limit our scrutiny
of where they fit in Middle-earth. The professions we will not cover are the Science Fantasy
professions, as a futuristic and scientific view of Endor is not presented in Tolkien's writings
(although they are good professions for a Dark Space campaign).
As in the last few articles of this series, I'm eager to continue using the rating system that was graciously
suggested by Joe Mandala. 0 indicates a common profession, requiring very little thought about its place
in Middle-earth, 5 indicates a normally disallowed profession and 1-4 indicates increasing levels of rarity and
consideration. Here we go...
Rolemaster Companion IV
While there are many professions able to hold their own in a fight, it takes someone special to not only fight well but
also to lead and encourage others to fight well. The leader is up to the task. With the intelligence required of such a
character, a unit or army is able to act with greater efficiency, guided tactically and precisely. He has had extensive
training and exposure to the battlefield and is certainly someone who has 'been out there'.
In Middle-earth, a tempestuous history of wars and strife called for leaders of armies against the foe. We see evidence
of this type of profession among the Elves of Beleriand, who withstood the aggression of Melkor for much longer than
expected, and also among those armies of Men who fought and died during the machinations of Sauron. Some examples
would be Maedhros of the Noldor, in his uniting of the armies of Beleriand, the Marshals of Rohan, in their actions at
Isengard, the Hornburg and the fields of Pelennor, or the warlords of the Witch-King, in their campaigns in Eriador.
Such are not passive statesmen, but rather those who spend their time in their foes' presence, guiding their own forces
to victory, as his abilities and experience allow.
Not unlike the Rogue, this profession also falls between the Fighter and Thief, making use of the skills of both professions. The differences are found in the specialization it has for reaching a target unawares, through stealth and disguise, and also for being able to eliminate a target, through precise attacks and poison. It's apparent that the profession is geared towards assassination and infiltration. Before the Oriental Companion came out, it may have been a good template for a Ninja.
In Middle-earth, the art of silent killing is most often found in the ways of the Dark, and is without a doubt used by its minions. Both poison and stealth are often a favored instrument of dark soldiers and Orcs, and someone talented in their use can often find favour among the leaders of the Dark. A non-magical 'shadow' for players might serve as a good adversary, when finally detected. After all, said assassin might be a part of that group's characters, unbeknownst to the other players and courtesy of the GM. The profession is not only for Sauron or Morgoth's use, but can also be found in the more stealthy and 'necessary' agents of the Free Peoples or even indifferent parties.
A variant of the Bard, this profession excels in skills and spells of seduction and influence. Primarily targeting
the opposite gender, she chooses subtlety as a way of achieving her means. When subtlety fails, however, the Houri also has
combat talents similar to a semi-realm user, but many foes never come to the point of matching blows, as her charms
are difficult to overcome.
Such a type is not seen readily in Tolkien's works. While such a spell user may serve well as an instrument of the Dark
or as a witch with a seductive focus to her spells, the profession would be extremely rare. However, I should mention
an exception that has come up in print recently, which is that of the Sisters of Ishtra. These devotees of a Southron
religion are described in a recent copy of Other Hands and are worthy of mention, as they are a Houri offshoot. See the
Other Hands Website concerning issue 29/30 for more information.
Astral Traveler: 5
Adept at shifting through the many planes of existence, the Astral Traveler draws power from both Essence and Mentalism,
bending barriers and obstacles to travel outside his home plane to his will. His spells deal much with reaching and
adapting to the hostile environments of other planes, while he also maintains access to an elemental focus, using the
power of a particular elemental plane and surviving its use.
While a rare enough profession for most fantasy games, this one is not viable in Middle-earth at all. In ňa (all that
exists in Tolkien's world), there is only Arda (the world), Aman (realm of the powers) and the Void (everywhere else).
Since travel to and from Aman and the Void is seriously restricted by Eru and the Valar, that pretty much means that
people stay where they are. With this restriction, the Astral Traveler has little power and is not recommended.
Able to cause people to do as he pleases, the Enchanter draws his power from Essence and Mentalism. His tight focus of spells
involves deception, domination and control. While not terribly overt, one can see the workings of his power, making the target
believe exactly what he wants for the Enchanter's own purposes. Little able to participate in combat, this spell user has
chosen another way to defeat his foes.
I have to say first that there is a lot of temptation that comes with the power of this profession. This is especially
dangerous in Middle-earth, as the use of such power is quick to lead to corruption. Not only able to command and control
others, this profession is able to deceive both the mind and senses, and such uses often lead to evil ends. This profession may
see better use among the Dark, as a challenging foe to the Free Peoples (who would obviously lose much freedom under
Conceptually, the Arcist is the same as the Archmage from RMC1. The only real difference between the two is the way in
which they develop spells; otherwise, the skill costs are pretty much the same.
The problem with this profession is the same as the problem for the Archmage. Since he draws power from Primal Essence,
noted as being the power of divine forces, such a profession is not to be found in Middle-earth, not even among the
Ainur (whose use of power is something I believe exceeds the boundaries of Rolemaster). Unfortunately, this Archmage
variant isn't a "go," either.
Rolemaster Companion V
This type of profession is similar to a cross between a Warlock and a Necromancer, with spells of both types for him to command. The stereotypical voodoo priest, he uses his power to terrify, destroy and alter his targets for his own purposes. His abilities are capable of harming the body, mind, and soul, even at the same time. Tangling with one is a scary proposition at best. His power is based on Channeling and Mentalism.
In Middle-earth, this spell user serves no good purpose. The ability to wither all aspects of a person is definitely from the Dark, and the user has to already be corrupt to use such power. Receiving this power from Dark sources makes it a good type of spell user for locales of evil, such as Mordor, Angmar, etc. It is not necessarily restricted to such places, however, perhaps spending time among the Free Peoples causing undetected terror and death. This profession may be a dangerous foe for PCs, to say the least.
A user of Essence, this profession manipulates more natural forces, such as magnetism, inertia, gravity, and so forth, to a greater depth than most elemental mages. With these powers at his control, he can bend and alter those same forces to his own ends. In a way, he is comparatively similar to an Archmage, when looking at his skills with various forms of energy.
Unfortunately, the creation of Arda was very likely done in a different way than more commonly accepted methods in our own universe. In a place where dew was spread across the sky to make stars and where a world changed from flat to round, it is likely that physical laws would be different from our own. Added to this is the likelihood that Endorians don't even grasp such concepts as gravity or friction, which would make this profession even more unlikely. Searching the literary sources, unfortunately, does not reveal that such a profession ever existed or could ever exist in Middle-earth.
A spell user much out of the ordinary, the Wizard uses the Essence to alter magical forces rather than people, places or things. Most of the spells of this user are used to change the flow of magic, making some spells more successful and many more fail or lose power. Such a user is the bane of anyone else seeking to use magic, while keeping his own spells at full power. Such a magical duelist would be good to have on one's side in battles against the supernatural.
Believe it or not, this profession is one of the 'gentler' ones to be found in Middle-earth (albeit rarely). Instead of using his magic to force or alter others in one way or another, he instead seeks to limit the use and scope of the power of his opponents. Such a spell user may be of great use to the Free Peoples if found, dealing with the all-too-dangerous threat of sorcery and necromancy from the Dark. This is of course not to say that this profession is either unused by the minions of the Dark or immune to corruption. Indeed, a misuse of power can even lead this type to corruption.
Rolemaster Companion VI
Able to hold his own, whether in combat or as a diplomat, this profession chooses to make his way in style. As trained in the social graces as in weapons use, the Romantic is very much at home in various social engagements. The dashing manner of this profession invokes visions of Errol Flynn, the Black Adder, the Dread Pirate Roberts, Zorro, and more, flamboyantly entering to steal the scene by blade or by charm.
In Middle-earth, this profession is likely to be seen in social or urban circles, but can also be found among bandits and privateers. Such a type may be found among or around the cities of Gondor and Arnor, where putting on an air is more commonly accepted. Many nobles, more lively in their approach, may be of this profession, charming their respective courts and gaining fame (or infamy) and renown.
Free Thinker: 5
The consummate questioner of the status quo, the Free Thinker is a profession that challenges convention in order to make discoveries that can shake the cobwebs of institutional complacency. When one considers some examples of this type of profession, such as DaVinci or Newton, one can see a spirited delver into the truth of matters. This profession's only limitation is that the supernatural is seen as entirely mythical and invalid to his way of thinking.
That is the problem with such a profession in Middle-earth, though. Since Endor is full of magic and magical influences, a Free Thinker would have a difficult time denying them. Let's face it: After two minutes against a Sauronic priest, this type would either have to change professions or, well...die, while exclaiming, "I know exactly how you did that! You're not fooling...yeeaarrrggghhh!"
A user of Channeling, this profession seems similar to an evil Cleric in the devotion to the sinister cult he adheres to. In addition to dark magics, he can also use his martial skill and guile in the defense of his organization, whether in conjunction with magic or not. By and large, such a profession takes his lead from the Pure Channeling users he serves, but is not above ambition and the desire to usurp such leadership.
In Middle-earth, this is a good profession for the bad guys. While most mages and priests of the Dark rely mainly on their magics and ability to cause fear and terror, the Cultist actually has the physical might to back up his power. The spell lists may need to be tinkered with however, as Conjuring Ways or Deadly Dances may not fit the style of magic of most Sauronic spell users in the West (Perhaps an evil Cleric list or two is permissible.) One good example of the Cultist in Middle-earth is that of the Angmarean military priest, presented in the Angmar and Empire of the Witch King campaign books.
This user of Mentalism and Essence devotes his time and abilities to seeking out lost magical lore and items. In these pursuits he has no equal, combining spell talents and perceptive skills to best research and find those lost secrets and dweomers. He has great value in those lost and arcane cities and ruins where such things are to be found, and is prepared to understand not only what to look for but also what may guard it.
Such a type is a rare thing in Middle-earth, and may not even be viable at all, depending on one's view of that world. While magical lore and items are present in Middle-earth, they are, for the most part, the exception and not the rule. To have a profession designed to seek out these things would require a very rare background. In the lands and stories that Tolkien has explored and shared, it is difficult to see where such a profession might even be trained.
The creator is a master of animation, both of dead bodies and of inanimate matter. Using his talents, he finds unique ways to take those things that do not live and gives them what might be referred to as life. While Dr. Frankenstein was not a spell user, as portrayed in Shelly's book, one might liken the desire of the creator to him, going beyond the norm of society and taking extreme measures to attain his goals.
In Middle-earth, it's just too difficult to place such a type. While seemingly unbiased towards good or evil, his practices do not lend terribly well to the trust of the Free Peoples. The Dark, on the other hand, has more practical ways and professions to animate those things it wishes, whether undead or dark spirits within stone (e.g. barrow wights or watchers), and would not have a use for training someone in the creator's style. It seems very much that this profession is best left to the Gothic fantasy genre it was created for.
Now, mainly because it was in my collection, begging to see use (no, my books don't talk to me), but also to try to balance the scale with some more Arms users...
At Rapier's Point
Exemplary at etiquette and at bending the ear, the Diplomat is skilled at representing his home country's interests abroad. Able to appear the innocent purveyor of good will, this type also has a knack for acquiring and coercing necessary information from others. He is often found among the wealthy and powerful, attending all courtly functions to gain any potential advantage.
The first example of such a one in Middle-earth is a certain devious individual named Grima Wormtongue. He actually was an ambassador to Rohan for Orthanc; most just didn't know it. Others in Endor could also be of this type, as we see representatives from neighboring lands visit from time to time (representative from Gondor, etc.), and not all have to be as devious and conniving as the profession suggests. He just needs to be perceptive enough to see which way the wind blows, prepared to inform his countrymen as to whether help is to be given to the visited land or whether borders need to be strengthened at home.
Noble de Robe: 1
A profession of business and wealth, this type represents an upper middle class that has found success in mercantile or other business prospects. A sense of cunning and opportunism aids him in keeping his household and business above water and on solid ground. Adept at skills of influence, record keeping and administration, the Noble de Robe uses whatever is necessary to keep his holdings. This type is most often found in urban settings, but he can actually base himself in a rural setting, if a less crowded clime is desired.
Looking at Tolkien's works, such a profession is not obvious, as the stories mainly dealt with heroic protagonists and rulers. At least one example (which is unfortunately the worst), however, can be found in the character Lotho Sackville-Baggins, in his dealings to keep influence and control over the Shire, though not by direct rule. Many different shades of this profession can be found in urban centers of Endor, guiding mercantile efforts, maintaining prominent positions in town and becoming forefront leaders of their respective guilds. The skill costs for the Noble de Robe are suitable to base many an NPC on, at least. Also, for PC use, one can imagine the wealthy son of an influential person wanting to fulfill a sense of adventure and to take the opportunity to make his own way.
Wandering to impress and entertain, the Poet (or Actor) seeks to gain a living with his art and talent. If the Poet cannot find regular patrons in a town or city, he is often forced to travel from place to place, so as to not overstay his welcome. A non-magical version of the performing Bard, his skills in the active and written arts can easily rival the common works of his semi-realm counterpart. Of course, when a new act fails to provide dinner, the Poet can always resort to more stealthy tactics.
In Middle-earth, entertainment and music have been a strong point in many cultures, for Elves, Dwarves, Men and Hobbits (and even Orcs, with their surprisingly metered verses in The Hobbit). This type is very likely a honored profession in many cultures, especially the Eldar and Avarin elves who impress their peers with voice and lyric, or the many clans and tribes of Men keeping and relating stories, sagas, and ballads of old.
Religious Dissident: 5
This profession represents the challenging or heretical exception to the common religion of state, often finding myriad ways of getting his message across and of finding converts to his view of what religion should be. To this end, he must often use discretionary methods to keep his 'heresy' at a low key, and is skilled at concealing that which must remain hidden. When it's time to preach, though, with conviction and "right" on its side he is able to make a considerable impression with his linguistic skills.
Appropriate for the Rapier's Point setting he was intended for, the Religious Dissident does not have a place in Endor that is justifiable. By and large, religion in Middle-earth is not structured in a way that a Religious Dissident could be set up to oppose. If unwilling to accept a tribal or popular faith among the Free Peoples, generally he would simply leave (not exactly exciting). If unwilling to submit to the Dark faith, especially in such places as Angmar or Mordor, the dissident would most likely be eliminated.
The Scientist: 4
Generalizing in scientific pursuits, this profession seeks to understand the natural laws and properties of his world. His goal is to understand the what, where, when, why, and how of all things his senses can perceive and he is extremely studious in these pursuits. Unlike the Scholar, who maintains a single place of study, the Scientist is eager to go forth and test and prove his theories. Also, unlike the Free Thinker, he does not dismiss magical matters.
Such a type is a rarity in Middle-earth, and is not mentioned. But, even in such a rich realm of fantasy, there must be those rare individuals who ask 'why'? Taking nothing for granted, a Scientist would use his scholarly and perceptive skills to find answers so often missed by more common professions (e.g. 'Aha! I knew it. The Balrog entered Moria through this shaft. Yes, I'll keep my voice down.'). In a way, perhaps even someone like Saruman or one of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain could have approached his interests with a scientific point of view. This is perhaps one to try.
We have had a whirlwind look at the various professions of the 'later' companions, even though our work is not yet finished. It is important to look closely at these, especially the magic-using professions, and gauge them carefully for a Middle-earth game, both to preserve and enrich the unique experience in that land called Endor. Once again, my caveat to you, dear readers, is to measure anything I've mentioned about suitability against the written works, as I may have overlooked some things.
In the next installment, I will take an extensive look at the Arms Companion, observing and recommending various profession types and backgrounds presented in that book (and tilting the scale in favor of Arms again). Until then, I hope your Middle-earth game is enjoyable and full of wonder.