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Rolemaster Professions in Middle-earth: Arms Companion

Anthony Almeida ©2002

Edited by Joe Mandala for The Guild Companion

Warcraft, weapon craft, skill, and ingenuity are staples for survival in Middle-earth - a world plagued by strife. Magic exists there, but its way is slow and requires too much effort to be immediately and widely useful. Force of arms is necessary for immediate action, whether for conquest or defense. Armies take up arms and meet on the field of battle, in struggles that test the limits of endurance of both ally and foe. The price for failure in this war-torn land is dear, for both the Free Peoples and the forces of the Dark Lord.
For the player wishing to explore rules for expanding more 'mundane' skills and talents, the Arms Companion is a welcome game aid, full of new skills, player backgrounds, combat rules and options, equipment, and professions. In this article, we'll examine the use of the profession and background rules in Middle-earth, while also looking at some sample and customized professions presented in the Arms Companion. While speaking of those professions, I'll remain consistent in the rating system for this series: 0 being common, 1-4 of increasing rarity, and 5 being normally disallowed. As I've stressed before in previous articles, please, adopt these musings of mine only as you would find necessary to enhance your own MERPTM game.

Background Packages

In many game systems, one develops a starting character with a decided background, whether as some craftsman, the pupil of a school, or as a military veteran. In the mechanics of many game systems, however, very little of that background (if any) is allowed any practical application in game play. If a character comes from the widely renowned Army of the Eagle's Flight, but has no unique martial skills, when compared to a farm boy-turned-fighter, what can be said that the soldier has learned during his stint?
The background packages rules in the Arms Companion allow a player and GM to flesh out the finer details of an Arms character and let some ideas take shape with it. Included in the book are some sample packages for basic mercenary and military organizations, as well as some interesting fantasy backgrounds and groups to serve as guidelines.
In Middle-earth, background packages can be used to create a soldier of a particular army, such as a Knight of Arnor or a member of the Pelargirian navy. Non-military types can be explored, such as a scholar of Annúminas or a bandit from a famous outlaw band. Choices in defining a character package would be relatively open-ended, but still would be based on such things as a 'initiation' roll or a certain number of background points devoted to the package. For an example of what one might look like for MERPTM, I'd decided to create a background package for a Ranger of the North, using some of the Companion's guidelines but also based on material in the Realms of Middle-earthTM book ArnorTM.

Ranger of the North

Two background options must be spent to purchase this training, with any remaining used for Special Items, Special Abilities, or Skill at Arms background tables.
An RM Ranger profession is primarily recommended, but others may be used, at the GM's discretion.
Allowable races: Dúnedain, Elves and Half-Elves
Temporary Stat Minimums: 50 (In & Pr) and 30 (all others, except Appearance)
Starting Level: 1
Level Equivalent: 3
Skill/StatBenefit
Co, Me and Re stat bonuses10
All other stat bonuses5
Poison RR modifier10
Disease RR modifier10
Maneuver in Armor: SL2 ranks
Maneuver in Armor: RL2 ranks
Maneuver in Armor: CH2 ranks
a 1-handed edged weapon/theme*3 ranks
a Missile weapon/theme*3 ranks
a 1-handed concussion weapon/theme*2 ranks
a 2-handed weapon/theme*2 ranks
a Thrown weapon/theme*2 ranks
a Polearm weapon/theme*2 ranks
Brawling2 ranks
Climbing3 ranks
Body Development4 ranks
Swimming3 ranks
Ambush3 ranks
Stalk/Hide4 ranks
Disarm Traps2 ranks
Camouflage2 ranks
Linguistics**10 ranks
Runes1 rank
Attunement2 ranks
Spell List Acquisition1 list gained***
General Perception4 ranks
Tracking3 ranks
Read Tracks2 ranks
Direction Sense2 ranks
Fletching2 ranks
a General craft or artisan skill5 ranks
Specific Knowledge Lore (Ranger havens)2 ranks
an Academic skill5 ranks
Riding (horses)2 ranks
Region Lore (Eriador)2 ranks
an Outdoor/Survival skill5 ranks
a General artistic skill5 ranks
* use weapon themes if using RMC V optional rule
** divided among Eriadoran languages

Custom Professions

Of course, should Background Packages prove an undertaking either the player or the GM are unwilling to work on, there is another optional set of rules in the Companion, based on 'tweaking' the skill costs and level bonuses of an existing profession, that may be used. Essentially, using this process, a 'new' profession may be created that might better suit a character's concept. Skill costs are reduced and increased according to some simpler guidelines, and suddenly a different of profession appears, better (and less) able to perform tasks than the 'base' profession normally could.
For creating a character in Middle-earth, this method may also be useful, as the character concepts that the player (and even Tolkien's works) may not fall into the standard RPG molds. As it happens, I also have an example prepared for this method called a Sultarana, which is a concept I borrowed from another fantasy series (which shall remain unmentioned) for my MERPTM game. It is, essentially, a professional and acrobatic duelist from desert lands, an idea I've been able to fit into Haruze and Apysani societies of Middle-earth.

Sultarana

Template: Warrior Monk
Level Bonuses: Combat +3, Athletic +3, Concentration +1, Body Development +2, Perception +1
Skill Cost Alterations:
Skill Cost ReductionSkill Cost Increase
Weapon Bugei 1/2Martial Arts 2/6
Dance 1/2Poison Lore 4/10
Brawling 4Runes 12
Sprinting 1/3Demon/Devil Lore 8
Body Development 1/4Military Organization 2/10
1HE Weapons 2/7Siege Engineering 4/12
There are also some sample Custom Professions provided in the companion, which I will examine, in the style of my previous articles. In all honesty, this was fairly effortless, as there won't be any magic in the considerations.

Horseman: 1
Excelling in riding and mounted combat, the Horseman is designed to be master of arms when riding an appropriate mount. Several Animal skills have been adjusted to meet the purpose of this profession, and allow him to become an expert cavalryman or mounted warrior, swift and in control of his mount.
With no hesitation at all, I would call this a prime candidate for many Rohîr characters, military and non-military alike. This profession would allow them to develop their legendary skill with horses in game play, as would be proper. Also, this profession may be applied to other skilled cultures of horsemen, such as the Asdriag Easterlings or some of the Haradrim.
Indurate: 2
Able to surmount nearly all obstacles, the Indurate has been designed to use a tight group of skills to fight and survive in all but the most hopeless situations. In a way, such a profession would mirror real-life Special Forces groups in existence today (without the guns and explosives). Trained heavily in weapons, armor, movement, survival skills and tactics, this profession can often be unstoppable, breaking through defenses normally unassailable by the normal soldier.
While no clear example can be seen in Tolkien's works, it can be presumed that several examples of this profession did exist. Turin Turambar's group would be a good one, having fought against Orcs in the wild for so long, and many mercenary groups of various times may have included men of such training. Dwarves are another fine example, being hardy and having had to endure long battles in full gear and in harsh terrain, almost unstoppable in their grim and fierce goals. The Dark may have also sought such training in some of their soldiers, powerful Men, Orcs, and Trolls, who could easily wade through the battlefield. It is clear that such training and ability are rare, however.
Outrider: 2
The Outrider profession is similar to the Rogue, in that it has an application for spy work, but it is more focused, dealing strictly with reconnaissance and infiltration. While as able in combat as the Rogue, the Outrider is designed to slip in, blend in, retrieve needed information, disrupt operations, and fade away unnoticed. Able to acclimate himself to enemy surroundings both by stealth and by manner, very little is inaccessible to him.
When desperate situations called for adaptation and change in Middle-earth, this type of profession arose. One example that stands out in my mind is that of the Rangers of the North, once prominent in Arnorian society but forced to change their lifestyle for survival and hope's sake. Indeed, the Rangers were able to penetrate many secrets of the Dark, keeping the Free Peoples aware of enemy threats and themselves staying one step ahead of them. Also, other cultures or societies may have adopted this type of profession, such as Angmarean spies, Elven scouts and so forth.
Templar: 3
Fanatical in defense of his beliefs, the Templar is devoted to the preservation and teaching of his religion. As much a philosopher as he a warrior, he knows of what he preaches, holding true to tenets until death. Able to endure the rigors of travel, he is often seen in far places, teaching others about his faith and righting what he believes to be wrong, sometimes in a rather 'direct' manner.
In Middle-earth, we must again look at the concept of religion in that land, in placement of this profession. Indeed, in northwestern Middle-earth, this profession would hardly be seen at all, as religion is certainly 'low key' there. In the 'wild' lands of the East and south, one might find this type, steadfast and fierce in his belief. The books detailing Haradan culture (Far Harad, Greater Harad and others) present several opportunities for fanatical warriors of their respective faiths, such as Junast's Guard in Tresti or the sinister Tayb cultists. Even with such examples, such a type is a rarity in Endor.
Trench Fighter: 3
The Trench Fighter develops his fighting talent in tight spaces or underground. His weapons tend to be short and adaptable to his practiced fighting environment, and he has been trained to travel and fight with nimbleness and strength. Taking advantage of situations where most fighters would be hindered, this profession excels at combat in those confined spaces.
In Middle-earth, this profession is one that would be mainly developed by those races that dwell (at least partially) underground. Examples that come to mind are Dwarves and Orcs, primarily, but the profession might even be extended to such races as the Wose or even the Hobbit, which also make use of underground or cavern dwellings. Obviously, a Dwarf is more likely to develop such a profession than a Hobbit, but that should not stunt the creativity of a player when developing a character. Even if a race, like a Dwarf or an Orc, were suitable for such a profession, it would still be the exception and not the rule (Dwarves and Orcs tending to gravitate towards more common professions, such as a Fighter or Warrior).
Hunter: 0
A superlative outdoorsman, the Hunter is a profession well suited to outdoor living and - you guessed it - hunting. Designed to be akin to such professions as the Rogue, Bounty Hunter and Ranger, it possesses a talent for knowing where and how to find game, by use of superlative senses and wood lore. While trained sufficiently for combat, the Hunter seeks only the chase and capture with his training. However, tangling with one in his own element is a risky endeavor.
A not-surprisingly-common profession in Middle-earth, this type is found in rural and wilderness areas, providing a much-needed service, either for his people or family. Even so, it may also be found in certain legendary figures, such as the Vala Oromë or the Noldo Prince Celegorm, or as the 'hobby' of certain nobles. With the Hunter's knowledge of woodlands and the wild, he would be a welcome addition to many campaigns.
Specialist: 1
Often times a soldier, but also a character of specific weapons training, the Specialist chooses to master one type of weapon and the skills that accompany its use. The Companion presents several versions of the profession: the Swordsman, skilled at the use of hand-held bladed or hafted weapons, the Archer, master of missile weaponry, the Sword Thrower, skilled at casting bladed or blunt weapons for distance and accuracy, and the Lancer, skilled at the use of pole arms (mounted or unmounted).
In Middle-earth, such Specialists are often called upon to serve in specific military groups, such as archers or cavalry, but they can also be used for races that primarily use a particular type of weapon, such as a Nando Elf bowman. Whatever the application, the character will have received very specialized training in his chosen weapon and fighting form.

Conclusion

Having said all that, it appears that we have a little more to do with Arms professions in Middle-earth from this Companion. Again, a little more variety is offered, to help give your characters the attention they need to fit into the story they will become a part of. While there are some limitations that must be considered in adopting a character idea to Middle-earth, such publications as these Companions do help in the creation process. None of these works, however, will be of any use, without your mind and imagination to begin the spark.
In the next and final article of this series, we'll have a look at the professions of the seventh Rolemaster Companion and the Alchemy Companion. I do hope that your Middle-earth game continues with the spirit of adventure and wonder lent by Tolkien's works. Tell your story well.

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