Rolemaster Professions in MERP: Rolemaster Companion III
Anthony Almeida ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala for The Guild Companion
Here we have part two of Anthony Almeida's series on using Rolemaster
professions in Middle-earth.
This installment deals with Rolemaster Companion III.
See part one
Here we are, examining still more of the many professions that Rolemaster Second Edition had to offer, in relation to their use in a MERP game and setting. From the first two installments, we've seen the basic professions of Character Law and the first two Rolemaster companions examined carefully, trying to see where they fit in that wonderful realm of play known as Middle-earth. For the sake of continuity, I'll present a few thoughts about the professions of Rolemaster Companion III.
Finally, we see the non-spell using professions beginning to catch up with those that do use magic, as far as sheer numbers go. This book is welcome in a MERP game, where magic and magic-using professions are scarce. Of course, we do see some more variety in spell users, as some new directions are suggested but by and large, there are significant 'background' professions suggested, which cover a few missing possibilities of character concept. In my musings, I'll be maintaining the rating scale I've used so far, from 0-5 (0 being common, 5 being normally disallowed, and 1-4 being of increasing rarity). Without further ado...
Rolemaster Companion III
Bounty Hunter: 1
This profession straddles the line between a Fighter and a Ranger, focusing on skills of tracking, hunting, combat and survival. It is better suited to the outdoors, but it is not restricted in its ability to make its way and survive in an urban setting. The majority of its skill costs have been tailored for the capture of its target, whether by tracking, trapping or pursuing information. Such a profession is often a loner, but can be adapted to use as a skilled huntsman, spy or scout.
In Middle-earth, one sees several adaptations of this profession in Tolkien's literature. For example, it is likely that it developed extensively among the Men and Elves of Beleriand, such as the Nandor or Turin's band, in their resistance of the hordes of Morgoth. In later times, this can be seen as a viable profession for a Ranger of the North, an Ithilien Ranger, or some Northmen or Woodland Elves. All would have the necessary skills to excel in the wilderness for extended periods of time, without the need for magical ability.
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.
Here is the true berserker, who actually has a good chance of making use of the Frenzy skill that comes so easy to him. His main areas of focus are relatively simple: move towards, at or through an opponent and bludgeon and/or cleave him with whatever happens to be at hand (I'll leave that up to your imagination) in a berserk rush. This is the profession others would like to be behind (at a safe enough distance) in a charge or rush. Some cultures, such as Picts, Celts or the traditional 'barbarians' have been known to produce such a type.
While not the most common profession, this is a viable one for Middle-earth. There are 'barbarian' cultures enough; the Swarthy Men, Dunlendings, Northmen and more besides, have such profession types, which are more often a 'condition'. These berserkers and zealots often accompany their respective hordes in a mad rush to crush the foe. Even Orcs have a penchant for such attack forms, seeking more the destruction of their foes, rather than the protection of their own lives (which would probably be forfeit if they didn't destroy their foes, anyway - Orc discipline is like that).
You would expect that this is the type of profession that many adventurers try to escape, but we actually have it presented here as a profession. He doesn't excel in combat or stealth, but he does have some good strong points, which are not immediately evident. This profession's specialties are rather broad, such as the ability not only to grow but also to identify plants and their uses, also knowing where and how they are best kept. One who works closely with the land will also know the lay of it and also many of its nearby waterways. As a manager of animals, he is as skilled with the keeping and use of domesticated ones as he is able to keep the wild ones at bay. For all these traits, there is the requirement that both the body and the will be strong and able to endure (At this point, it should be mentioned that my father and generations before him were farmers, so I do have the slightest bit of bias.).
In Middle-earth, the profession is without a doubt common. From the above examples, it is possible for this profession to adapt to an adventuring life (although it will never be more comfortable in such pursuits when compared to its purpose). Take Master Samwise, for example. He's a Ringbearer, Orc-slayer, destroyer of Silent Watchers, etc., etc., but in the end, all he ever wanted was to be a farmer (his reasoning during the Ring's temptation confirming that in The Return of the King). Of course, this didn't stop him from being a hero. This is not a profession to be overlooked, I feel.
The Duelist is a profession that takes hand-to-hand combat to a tight specialty, where a small group of weapons is focused on, at the expense of all others. Furthermore, the Duelist learns every possible advantage with his weapon type of choice, making use of every part and potential motion, whether parrying, disabling or enduring his opponent's attacks. Concentration and efficient movements are key elements in his regimen. Often such a one is called upon to settle matters of honour and often adhere to a code.
In Middle-earth, one is more likely to find this profession in an urban setting, often made available as an expert weapons master, but shunning the responsibilities of a soldier. While not usually a noble, the profession may be called upon by nobles to settle debts. Of course, many nobles in Tolkien's works by no means shabby in their own weapon craft (Theoden and Eowyn being fair examples). Or the profession may just choose to pursue a special skill in one type of weapon for its own personal use or mastery (although that view may be revisited, when I discuss the Specialists of the Arms Companion in a later submission).
When you look at the Craftsman, the first thing you notice is that its adventuring skills are probably not much better than an average spell-user's. The profession is most often not used for adventuring, rather pursuing some line of work. The nice thing about the profession is that it is very open ended, allowing just about any 'common' profession to be viable, while also allowing the townsfolk to have a less adventurous profession attributed to them than 'Fighter' or 'Thief' or 'Rogue' (Just look in your MERP modules; you'll see them.).
Craftsmen of Middle-earth are mostly homebodies, while journeymen I'm sure are also found away from home. However, the occasional 'expert treasure hunter' may actually be persuaded (read "shanghaied") into adventure. Hobbits are a good example of this, but the profession is a really good one for other races, as not everyone is going to have the background of a soldier, a member of the underworld or a mage. Actually, it may be a nice profession to have around. A cook's necessity is clearly seen, as is a smith's. Even a Dwarven miner, who does not have a martial background, may be a mean opponent, due to his tendency of hitting things with a pickaxe all day long. There are some opportunities here.
The very picture of a knight, the Cavalier profession is often attributed to that soldier that has the advantage of intelligence, nobility and leadership skills. It commands lesser forces, often from horseback, and rejects the use of stealth in his dealings (which is good, because those skill costs aren't the best, anyway). Also at its command is a penchant for lore and tactics.
As there were many wars in Middle-earth, this profession arose out of necessity, to provide direction to lesser troops and the necessary knowledge to win the battle. It is possible that many Arnorian and Gondorian knights would have followed this profession, as well as many (but not all) Rohirrim.
The Gypsy is a profession that is nomadic in background. It is well traveled, with the ability to survive in the wilderness for a goodly period of time. However, this profession's thief-like skills tend to make up for any deficiency that it would normally endure. Also, it has a tendency towards magic, superstition and some performance skills, giving the profession an air of mystery and enchantment...or sometimes, suspicion.
In Middle-earth, this profession isn't specifically mentioned, but it is possible that certain nomadic families and cultural group do exist, which travel to and fro. Perhaps this does not occur in wagons per se (even though one must wonder if the Wainriders developed such a culture), the tendency to not stay rooted would be a key factor. All in all, it seems a viable profession template for those who come from a background of survival, travel and ingenuity.
This profession is very similar to the Rogue, differing in the water-borne lifestyle that it comes from. The sailor is common to many cultures, making its way by traveling the rivers, seas and oceans, in search of food, land, trade, plunder, etc. Its skill at survival at sea involves being able to adapt to life on a boat or vessel, finding its way around the watercourses, by way of maps and navigation, and having a better-than-average knowledge of the creatures and weather conditions of the waters they travel.
From the Telerin Elves to the Corsairs of Umbar, sea travel has been used since the beginnings of Arda. This profession is well suited to the many races and cultures that use the waterways for various purposes. Whether a riverine Northman, an explorer of the Guild of Venturers or an Elf of the Havens, the profession sees several good uses. In fact, travel by sea or river might actually shorten some travel times, at least in northwestern Endor, and an experienced sailor will help to make the trip a smooth one (barring weather, of course).
Very much like the Fighter, this profession excels in combat with all types of weapons and armour. In some ways, the Warrior has an easier time in learning combat than the Fighter, the only trade-in being that all other skills and pursuits are very much neglected. This profession typifies the combatant who focuses solely on the basic fighting arts, or, for reason of lesser intelligence, doesn't aspire to learning other talents.
In a purely martial society or background this profession is easily seen in Middle-earth. Soldiers who train from early ages at warcraft and remain in their respective armies may not see exposure to other skills as often. Also, it is a good profession for Orcs, Trolls and other subject races of the Dark, which are often encouraged to fight, to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
A variant of the No Profession, this type is actually very similar to it, having average costs for most skills. However, while the No Profession seeks to master nothing, the Professional actually does have a 'professional' focus, whether it is an 'acrobat', 'monster hunter' or 'valet'. Such a profession might be good for a character that does wish to be constrained by the limits of one profession or another, but still wants to do at least one or two things well.
Like the No Profession, this actually may do well for many adventurers in Middle-earth who do not fit into the immediate mold of most professions. Such a character would be open to many possibilities, while not sacrificing too much specialization. Bilbo Baggins, for example, didn't truly have a profession, but he did finally make for a good writer (with the Professor's help, of course).
This semi-spell user draws from the realm of his choosing and background, in the magical crafting and shaping of substances and constructs. Like the Alchemist his spells don't provide too many immediate effects during an adventure, but his better affinity to engage in combat alleviates this drawback. Also, his ability use spells to build up is also carried along with those spells used to break down materials and, therefore, bypass obstacles.
The nice thing about the Crafter is that it isn't restricted to a particular realm, making it more available than the similar Delver in Middle-earth. Therefore, you may see some more variety, such as a Dwarven Crafter, gifted by Mahal, or a Daen Crafter, following the tutelage of Shoglic Gobha. Elves could excel as Mentalism-based Crafters (of course, without too much thought about the 'magic' of their craft). The one concern about this profession rests in the destructive nature of some of its spells, as corruption is more likely with spells of that type, especially when misused.
Noble Warrior: 3
A semi-spell user of Mentalism, one can compare it to a Cavalier, except that this one has access to magical abilities that enhance his success in combat. His spells allow him to increase his own blows, avoid the blows of others, and move in ways that exceed the norm. Also, he can use his abilities to enhance his armour and weapon, as his need dictates. The profession is presented as one adhering to one code or another, although that would more likely depend on game setting than a requirement of any sort.
A rare sight in Middle-earth, it is a glorious one when beheld in battle. One good example might be Fingolfin, in his battle with Morgoth. Skilled as he was normally and bearing the great blade, Ringil, it can be suggested that the power of his will in that last duel was the result of 'magic'; after all, it's not often that Morgoth misses with Grond. Other Elves and Elf lords may have had access to the same power themselves, utilizing it the War of the Last Alliance, the sack of Ost-in-Edhil or the glorious entry of Glorfindel to aid the Ringbearer at the river Bruinen. This same power may have been evident in some Númenoreans, who had skill in mind magic and some tutelage from Elves. Alas, such power can also be used for evil purposes, allowing Sauronic knights and warlords to use their power for the destruction of the Free Peoples in battle.
Chaotic lord: 5
This profession of Arms and Channeling has its focus in the manipulation of Chaos for malevolent or unbridled purpose. This semi-spell using warrior has access to great power from a master of Chaos, who he serves exclusively. The manipulation of the very element of Chaos is the most dangerous aspect of its power, causing all to be devoured by the madness therein. The Chaotic lord is very dangerous, indeed.
Unfortunately, the Chaos suggested is not mentioned in Tolkien's works per se, or at least not in the way the companion suggests. There is, of course, the void, but that is mentioned to be only nothingness (which was filled up somewhat by Eru and the Ainur). To bring such a profession into Middle-earth would not only be inappropriate but unpredictable. Not even Morgoth or Sauron would suffer a servant to use such power himself, and not even those dark lords have dared such power (or perhaps they simply don't have it).
A semi-spell user of Essence and Channeling (the only one you'll find in RM2), this profession specializes in torturing people in all aspects of their being, with plenty of spells to back up this pursuit. The body, mind and soul are fair game to this twisted nature of this type of character. When he's bored, more mundane means can be used to cause damage, with the better than marginal weapon skill he has.
Needless to say, there is no good purpose that this profession can perform in Middle-earth. In its role as tormentor, it can progress with a victim as quickly or as slowly as it chooses, with the added finale of adding the victim's soul to the ranks of the Undead. Obviously, the Dark can make much use of such a one, if only in the background. Pity the poor character that is targeted by this profession.
This semi-spell user of Mentalism resembles largely a thief with magical talent. While the combat and stealth abilities of the Montebanc suffer a little from the combining of Mentalism with Arms, this profession is still able to infiltrate and sneak into most places, by mundane means or magically.
In Middle-earth, this profession is not evident, although the abilities of a magical spy can be suggested both sides of the good/evil coin. An urban setting may be the better setting for such a profession, where most of its 'work' can be done. One concern is the Mystic Escapes list, which allows some ability for short-range teleports; this ability may not fit well into a purer vision of Middle-earth. Also the use of power for less than pure deeds runs the (I hope by now) familiar risk of corruption.
Moon Mage: 4
This semi-spell using profession of Channeling draws its power from the magic available in the proper lunar cycles. Light (full moon), grey (waning/waxing moon) and dark (new moon) Moon Mages depend on the moon being in the proper phase. The spells of this profession tend to mirror the philosophy of the respective mage, with the commonality being the ability to alter various aspects of being through the use of lunar power.
This is a hard profession to nail down in Middle-earth, for a few reasons. As the Moon in Arda's sky is a holy light, the possibility of grey or dark Moon Mages becomes nil, as the profession is Channeling-dependent. It is possible that the appropriate Ainu (Varda or Tilion) might see fit to grant access to such power to a worthy Elf of Man, although such a thing would be rare and laced with the burden of responsibility for such power.
The Sleuth is a semi-spell user of Channeling, which uses its power to detect, analyze and solve mysteries, along with various spell-like abilities to perform amazing escapes and infiltrations. The skills of this profession are geared towards looking deeply into a case, to draw conclusions for its own ends.
Normally, I would assign a lesser rarity to this profession in Middle-earth, as the profession runs somewhat parallel to a Montebanc. The only problem is the realm that the Sleuth draws from - Channeling. Frankly, I cannot assign the type of deductive powers seen with this profession to either the Ainur or the Dark. If there is a viable way, someone wiser than myself may have to find it.
Crystal Mage: 5
Crystals and deep earth elements are the focus of this hybrid Essence/Mentalism profession, which makes use of its power in myriad ways. The Crystal Mage can attack, discover hidden lore, create light and fire, and enchant crystalline items. Often the focusing crystals and other earth elements are necessary for the success of the Crystal Mage's spells.
Unfortunately, this type of power seems of a type that belongs to another realm of fantasy. In Middle-earth, users of magic draw it from Existence (in one form or another), but do not make use of particular earthen foci. Even Fëanor, who made the Silmarils did not seem to have this type of power; if he did, then it was likely a product of some hidden lore that Aulë passed on to him. To be honest, I don't readily see where this profession would fit into a normal MERP game.
The Magus is a profession of Essence, Channeling or both realms that makes use of the hidden power of runes, symbols and words to evoke great power, not only in the creation of sigils and signs or the speaking of words or power but also in the creation of permanent enchantments on items. Such a one is comparable to some cross between an Archmage and an Alchemist, and it is apparent that there is great power to be evidenced in this profession's magics.
A good portion of the Magus' spells seems almost Istarian in nature (I said 'seems', not 'is'.), and for a spell user to be able to command such power would hearken to days long past. In Middle-earth, if such a profession is allowed, there is a tremendous weight of responsibility to be kept, and it is very likely that both the Ainur and the Dark would monitor such power. The failure to keep check of such power can only lead to corruption.
Dream Lord: 4
This profession deals exclusively with dreams and the dream state, with the ability to manipulate both. A hybrid user of either Essence/Mentalism or Channeling/Mentalism, this profession makes various uses of the dream world to serve his agenda, whether to travel within dreams, manifest various creatures and objects within them, protect the dreaming state, or cause harm to a dreamer.
In Middle-earth, such a profession is not evident. The Vala Irmo may use a power somewhat resembling this in his ministering, but such cannot be compared together. If there is some gifting of this type of power, it is both very rare and more likely to be used (and abused) by Dark forces.
We have some very likely candidates from this companion, but we also have some professions here that are worth scrutinizing very carefully or ignoring altogether, with regards to their consideration for a MERP game. As before, I would ask you to measure what I've conjectured against the written works of Professor Tolkien and his legacy for verification. Above all, consider what is best for the story you wish to tell in your MERP game. Tell it well.
In my next installment, I'll be taking you through Rolemaster Companions IV through VI, and observing the appropriateness of professions from those books in MERP. Until then, play on.