Resisting Stuns

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2004

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"The downside of eliminating stuns is that it renders some spells partially or wholly pointless"

In my opinion, one of the mildly irritating aspects of Rolemaster combat is critical results that give "stun" damage and "stunned unable to parry" damage. When GMing Rolemaster, I have a tendency to ignore such results, preferring to convert them into additional concussion hit damage. This tendency is particularly pronounced when I'm GMing scenarios intended for convention play -- I don't want the mental book-keeping and, to be honest, I want to ensure that every player can do something active every round of a combat.

In HARP, criticals can still deliver stunning damage, albeit in only one variety. And so, I'm still converting rounds of stun into concussion hits at a rate of 5 hits per round of stunning. And indeed, this rule has been adopted in the HARP campaign in which I'm a player. However, the downside of eliminating stuns is that it renders some spells partially or wholly pointless, so I'm not completely satisfied about removing stuns from HARP.

Perhaps the key difference between Rolemaster and HARP when it comes to stuns is the difficulty of "healing" them. In Rolemaster, herbs, the Stunned Maneuvering skill, and a plethora of spells can be employed to counter stun. In HARP, the herbs are still there, but there are no official spells to relieve stun (see Issue 63, May 2004 for my unofficial Unstun spell). Instead characters may make a Stamina RR, equalling or bettering 150 (plus 5 for each round of stun after the first) to shake off the stun.

A target number of 150 is actually very high. Assuming a human character with a Co stat of 75, buying one Resistance (Stamina) rank every level would only have a total bonus of 70 at 10th-level. That equates to about a 1-in-5 chance of shaking a round of stun. Buying two ranks every level only raises the bonus to 90, or about a 2-in-5 chance of shaking the stun. The probabilities gradually worsen for more severe stuns.

Being stunned in fantasy HARP is bad news, but at least a character can parry with half their OB. In modern and futuristic HARP, parrying a blaster bolt or a bullet is not an option. Attempting Dodge maneuvers with a --50 penalty is likely to be futile. It would be unfortunate if sci-fi HARP combat degenerated into who fires first and achieves a stun result always wins. That may be realistic, but it is unlikely to be fun.

My alternate rule proposal is to alter the target number for Stamina RRs versus stuns.

New Rule: When a character receives a critical result that says they are Stunned for one or more rounds, the character will make a Stamina-based Resistance Roll. They must equal or beat a RR of 100 or they are stunned. If there is more than one round of Stun, the number to beat is raised by 10 for every round past the first.

Example: To break one round of Stun, a character must succeed at a Stamina RR of 100. To break two rounds of Stun, the character must succeed at a Stamina RR of 110.

The effect of this will be substantial. Our human character (+10 RR bonus, +10 from stats) will have about a 1-in-4 chance of shaking 1 round of stun with a single rank in Resistance (Stamina). With ten ranks (total bonus 70), the character need only roll 30 to counter the stun; with twenty ranks, the character only needs to roll 10 or higher. As the target number rises more sharply with more severe stun injuries, characters will not become invulnerable.