Simplifying the RMSS/FRP skill system

Copyright Joerg Jahnke © 2010

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Cutting down the number of skills for RMSS/RMFRP, without noticeably disturbing the system's balance, is what this article is trying to achieve."


While the older Rolemaster 2nd edition core rules contained a list of 28 "primary" skills plus 40 optional secondary skills, the RM2 companion books expanded this list to more than 200 skills and the RMSS/RMFRP core rules later incorporated about 200 of these skills. (Your exact numbers might differ a bit, depending on whether you count, for example, Adrenal Moves or Spell Lists as one skill or each Adrenal Move or Spell List as a separate skill). A complaint that was sometimes heard during the RM revision discussions on the ICE forums, especially from players that never switched from RM2 to RMSS/RMFRP, was that they did not like the vast list of skills contained in RMSS/RMFRP. This high number of skills might also pose an entry barrier for new players when trying to create their first RM character.

Later products from ICE, e.g., HARP or RMX, reduced this number of skills. Cutting down the number of skills for RMSS/RMFRP, without noticeably disturbing the system's balance, is what this article is trying to achieve.

The simplified skill system

Removal of skill category development

The first change with the new system is that developing ranks in skill categories, introduced with RMSS, is removed. The categories were introduced to represent similarities among different skills. E.g., if a character had learned skill in using a broadsword it could be assumed that he was also able to handle a longs word, albeit at a lower OB. On the other hand, this category system also made skills similar that really are not, such as Sailing and First Aid, or Religion and Region Lore. And the system made it necessary for the players to care about spending DPs for the skill categories in addition to the individual skills.

In order to represent similarities among different weapons, a similarity perhaps most often used in FRPGs, the following simplified rule can be used:

If a character has learned skill with a given weapon then he can wield all other weapons in the same weapon group with --20 to his OB. ( If you own the old RM2 Character & Campaign Law, then you can use the Similar Weapons Table on pg. 79 for determining how weapons can be grouped. Otherwise I suggest using the weapon groups from pg. 26 of HARP Lite.) The weapon in which the character developed skill is considered his Primary Weapon in this group. Changing the Primary Weapon can be achieved by practicing a few hours. All other weapons in the same Weapon Category (e.g., 1-Handed Edged) can be used with a penalty of --40 to his OB.


Rowan the Fighter has developed skill in wielding a broadsword with a +80 OB. Since a long sword belongs to the same Weapon Group, he may wield a long sword with a +80 -- 20 = +60 OB. A dagger, which is also a 1-Handed Edged weapon, could be used by him with a +80 -- 40 = +40 OB. During an adventure Rowan finds an enchanted long sword and decides to make this his new Primary Weapon. After practicing one afternoon with the new weapon, Rowan can use the long sword with a +80 OB and his old broadsword, now no longer the Primary Weapon in the group, with a +60 OB.

The reduced skill set

The list of skills gets cut down to roughly 70 skills. In most cases these are the skills that already existed as Secondary Skills in RM2. If you can't find a skill that your characters used to develop frequently and that you can't live without, then simply add it to the list. Adding a handful of skills won't hurt play-balance.

A few skill categories have been removed completely: Awareness • Perception, Awareness • Senses, Science • Basic, Science • Specialized, Technical/Trade • Professional and Technical/Trade • Vocational. Some skills formerly listed in these categories have been moved to other categories, most have simply been removed.

The skill list is as follows:


Soft Leather, Rigid Leather, Chain, Plate


Acting, Dancing, Music, Singing


Acrobatics, Climbing, Contortions, Diving, Rowing, Skiing, Swimming, Tumbling


Perception, Tracking

A note on Perception: This skill replaces all other skills in the Awareness categories except Tracking and uses the DP cost of the Awareness • Searching category. So spotting a hidden enemy in a forest now uses Perception to resolve the maneuver as well as detecting a trap in a dungeon corridor. A special rule applies to all Perception maneuvers that a player did not explicitly state. These maneuvers get resolved using a special --50 modifier. So if a character walks down a dungeon corridor without looking for traps, he still has a chance to detect a trap, but it is far easier for him if he actively looks for traps.

Perception Adolescence Skill Ranks: Use half the number of ranks listed for the Alertness skill for the character's race (rounded up).

Body Development

Body Development

Combat Maneuvers

Two-weapon Combat, Weapon Styles (see Martial Arts Companion)


Languages, Signaling


Cooking, Fletching, Leather Crafts, Rope Mastery, Stone Crafts, Smithing (Metal Crafts), Wood Crafts

Add other crafts as you see fit.

Directed Spells

One for each directed attack



This one skill replaces all other influence skills previously listed in this category, be it Interrogation, Trading or other skills.


Culture Lore, Region Lore, Artifact Lore, Circle Lore, Spell Lore, Symbol Lore

Add other lore skills as you see fit.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts Style (see Martial Arts Companion), Striking, Sweeps & Throws


Animal Handling, Riding, Survival

A note on Animal Handling: This encompasses tending animals, healing them as well as the former herding skill.

A note on Survival: This skill replaces all former skills from the Outdoor • Environmental Category, be it Foraging, Caving, etc.

Power (Magical)

Attunement, Channeling, Power Point Development, Runes, Spell Mastery, Transcend Armor

Runes Adolescence Skill Ranks: Use the number of ranks for the Power Awareness Skill Category for the character's race.

Self Control

Adrenal Balance, Adrenal Landing, Adrenal Leaping, Adrenal Speed, Adrenal Strength, Meditation, Stunned Maneuvering

Special Attacks & Defenses

Adrenal Defense, any kind of special attack


Open Spell Lists, Closed Spell Lists, Base Spell Lists, Other Spell Lists


Ambush, Disarm Traps, Hiding, Pick Locks, Stalking, Trap Building, Trickery


First Aid, Gambling, Mathematics, Navigation, Sailing

First Aid Adolescence Skill Ranks: Use the number of ranks for the Technical/Trade • General Skill Category for the character's race.



Streetwise Adolescence Skill Ranks: Use the number of ranks for the Urban Skill Category for the character's race.


One for each weapon. Different costs apply to the different weapon categories.

Skill development rules

For any skill listed in the reduced skill set, the DP costs basically stay the same, e.g., for a Fighter, Region Lore: Own still costs 1/3 and Artifact Lore still costs 6 DP per rank. For the new skills, like Influence, the costs of the category apply.

But, because ranks in Skill Categories are longer developed, the progression of all skills which had a Standard or Combined progression now changes to --25 • 5 • 2 • 1 • 0.5, i.e., the progression used in RM2.

Additionally, for the same reason, the costs for skills that used a Combined or Special progression get halved (rounded up). If a skill has a two number cost where the costs for the first and the second rank are uneven, then the cost for the second rank gets rounded down. The latter does not apply to Spells. So a cost of 2/6 becomes 1/3, a cost of 2/7 becomes 1/4 (7 / 2 = 3.5, rounded up to 4), a cost of 3/9 becomes 2/4 (3 / 2 = 1.5, rounded up to 2, 9 / 2 = 4.5, rounded down to 4 since the cost for the first rank was already rounded up), a spell skill cost of 25 becomes 13 and a spell skill cost of 3/3/3 becomes 2/2/2. ( This change is quite significant since it effectively makes developing Base Spell Lists for Pure and Hybrid spell users 33% more expensive as opposed to using the exact halved value of 1.5/1.5/1.5. If you feel that your Pure and Hybrid spell users learn too few spells, then you may make an exception and use costs of 1.5/1.5/1.5 for development of Base Spell Lists for Pure and Hybrid spell users.). The resulting Development Point Cost tables are included later in this article.

The number of DPs per level gets halved in comparison to the normal RMSS/RMFRP formular, so that DPs = (Ag + Co + Me + Re + SD) / 10.

The number of Hobby Ranks during initial character creation gets halved.

Restricted, Everyman and Occupational skills

The modified advancement rules for Restricted, Everyman and Occupational skills get removed. Instead these categorizations now translate into a flat bonus as follows:

- Restricted skills get a modification of --20

- Everyman skills get a modification of +20

- Occupational skills get a modification of +30

If a character has a skill fall into one of these categories through his race and into the same or another of these categories because of his profession, then simply add the two bonuses.

Effect on Training Packages

The removal of Skill Category rank development, moving skills to other categories and the skill cost changes have the effect that the costs for all TPs need to be adjusted. First, TPs will only provide skill ranks (ignore any skill category ranks from the TP). If a skill is listed that no long exists, choose the closest remaining skill or remove the skill from the TP. Second, the official ICE formula [;dl=item456] can be used to calculate the TP cost.

Summary of the changes

- Developing ranks in Skill Categories is removed. For weapon skills there is a rule to represent similarities among the weapons.

- The list of skills is reduced.

- DP costs for skills not using the Standard progression is halved (rounded up).

- Skill progression is --25 • 5 • 2 • 1 • 0.5 for all skills that had a Standard or Combined progression. No rank bonus from Skill Categories.

- Number of DPs per level is halved.

- Number of Hobby Ranks is halved.

- Training Package costs are revised.

New Development Point costs for the professions

Animist, Bard, Cleric, Dabbler, Fighter, Healer, Illusionist

Armor - Heavy115/5/511112/2/27/7/711
Armor - Light2/2/22/2/22/2/25/5/51/1/14/4/49
Armor - Medium103/3/310102/2/26/6/610
Artistic - Active2/51/22/52/42/52/51/5
Artistic - Passive2/51/32/52/52/52/52/5
Athletic - Brawn44/953/92/567
Athletic - Endurance32/732/72/633
Athletic - Gymnastics32/632/42/533
Awareness - Search.1/52/62/62/62/533
Body Development43/753/71/31/38
Combat Maneuvers53/753/72/499
Directed Spells310352032/6
Lore - General1/31/21/31/31/31/31/3
Lore - Magical2/51/42/42/662/51/4
Lore - Obscure3/72/43/73/73/73/73/7
Lore - Technical2/62/42/62/52/62/62/6
Martial Arts - Striking63643/569
Martial Arts - Sweeps63643/569
Outdoor - Animal1/22/732/61/433
Outdoor - Enviromen.1/22/62/72/62/533
Power Awareness2/63/62/52/782/61/4
Power Manipulation2/53/62/53/692/52/5
Power Point Devel.24241032
Self Control52/752/72/62/76
Special Attacks53531/388
Special Defenses158151513915
Spells Other-------
Spells Own Base Lists2/2/23/3/32/2/23/3/3-2/2/22/2/2
Spells Own Closed2/2/25/52/2/25/5202/2/22/2/2
Spells Own Open2/2/24/42/2/24/4132/2/22/2/2
Subterf. - Mechanics8472/63/888
Subterfuge - Attack5683/63/585
Subterfuge - Stealth32/751/52/563
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first63/963/91/599
Weapon - second76762/52020
Weapon - third97972/72020
Weapon - forth97982/72020
Weapon - fifth979102/72020
Weapon - sixth2015201552020
Weapon - seventh2015201552020
MA Combat Maneuvers63643/669

Magent, Magician, Mentalist, Monks

CategoryMagentMagicianMentalistMonkTaoist MonkZen Monk
Armor - Heavy6/6/6117/7/7111111
Armor - Light2/2/294/4/4999
Armor - Medium4/4/4106/6/6101010
Artistic - Active2/42/52/52/52/42/5
Artistic - Passive2/52/52/52/52/52/4
Athletic - Brawn3/9653/73/73/7
Athletic - Endurance2/7332/72/72/7
Athletic - Gymnastics2/433/91/51/51/5
Awareness - Search.1/5332/62/62/6
Body Development3/7863/72/72/7
Combat Maneuvers3/7973/63/63/6
Directed Spells102/52/69910
Lore - General1/31/31/31/31/31/3
Lore - Magical3/61/42/43/63/63/6
Lore - Obscure3/73/73/73/73/73/7
Lore - Technical2/52/62/62/62/62/6
Martial Arts - Striking3932/52/52/5
Martial Arts - Sweeps3932/52/52/5
Outdoor - Animal2/7332/72/72/7
Outdoor - Enviromen.2/6332/62/52/7
Power Awareness3/71/42/53/73/73/7
Power Manipulation3/62/52/53/63/63/6
Power Point Devel.422444
Self Control2/6632/42/42/4
Special Attacks286333
Special Defenses8159333
Spells Other------
Spells Own Base Lists3/3/32/2/22/2/23/3/33/3/33/3/3
Spells Own Closed5/52/2/22/2/25/55/55/5
Spells Own Open4/42/2/22/2/24/44/44/4
Subterf. - Mechanics2/777444
Subterfuge - Attack3/588444
Subterfuge - Stealth1/4552/72/72/7
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first3/796556
Weapon - second4208888
Weapon - third62015888
Weapon - forth72020888
Weapon - fifth82020151515
Weapon - sixth92020151515
Weapon - seventh102020151515
MA Combat Maneuvers3932/52/52/5

Mystic, Mythic, Lay Healer, Layman, Paladin, Ranger

CategoryMysticLay HealerLaymanPaladinRangerMythic
Armor - Heavy7/7/75/5/54/4/43/3/35/5/57/7/7
Armor - Light4/4/42/2/22/2/21/1/12/2/23/3/3
Armor - Medium6/6/64/4/43/3/32/2/24/4/45/5/5
Artistic - Active1/42/52/52/52/52/5
Artistic - Passive2/52/52/52/52/52/5
Athletic - Brawn763/63/73/73/7
Athletic - Endurance332/72/71/52/5
Athletic - Gymnastics33/92/63/73/62/5
Awareness - Search.2/432/62/61/41/4
Body Development862/72/52/62/6
Combat Maneuvers972/62/53/63/6
Directed Spells2/62/73/6201520
Lore - General1/31/31/31/31/31/3
Lore - Magical2/52/533/63/63/6
Lore - Obscure3/73/73/73/73/73/7
Lore - Technical2/62/62/62/62/62/6
Martial Arts - Striking633645
Martial Arts - Sweeps633645
Outdoor - Animal332/52/61/52/6
Outdoor - Enviromen.332/52/61/32/6
Power Awareness2/52/64/7655
Power Manipulation2/52/543/63/63/6
Power Point Devel.325444
Self Control532/72/72/72/6
Special Attacks863/51/42/41/4
Special Defenses9910151520
Spells Other------
Spells Own Base Lists2/2/22/2/2-3/3/33/3/33/3/3
Spells Own Closed2/2/22/2/285/55/55/5
Spells Own Open2/2/22/2/254/44/44/4
Subterf. - Mechanics783/6742/8
Subterfuge - Attack883/6833/6
Subterfuge - Stealth2/762/651/52/4
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first963/62/53/73/9
Weapon - second2083/63/845/8
Weapon - third20154466
Weapon - forth20205466
Weapon - fifth20206466
Weapon - sixth20207699
Weapon - seventh2027699
MA Combat Maneuvers633645

Rogue, Sorcerer, Astrologer, Thief, Warrior Monk, Armsmaster

CategoryRogueSorcererAstrologerThiefWarrior MonkArmsmaster
Armor - Heavy3/3/3117/7/74/4/4104/4/4
Armor - Light1/1/194/4/42/2/291/1/1
Armor - Medium2/2/2106/6/63/3/3103/3/3
Artistic - Active2/42/52/52/42/52/5
Artistic - Passive2/52/52/52/52/52/5
Athletic - Brawn2/6773/62/53/7
Athletic - Endurance2/5332/72/62/6
Athletic - Gymnastics1/5331/31/33/6
Awareness - Search.1/532/61/32/52/6
Body Development2/4883/62/52/5
Combat Maneuvers2/5992/62/52/5
Directed Spells202/53202015
Lore - General1/31/31/31/31/31/3
Lore - Magical42/52/5563/9
Lore - Obscure3/73/72/73/73/73/9
Lore - Technical2/52/62/62/42/62/6
Martial Arts - Striking3/7963/71/33/9
Martial Arts - Sweeps3/7963/71/33/9
Outdoor - Animal1/5332/52/62/6
Outdoor - Enviromen.2/432/52/62/62/6
Power Awareness72/52/6684
Power Manipulation62/52/5973/6
Power Point Devel.633884
Self Control2/6552/61/32/7
Special Attacks1/4881/41/51/4
Special Defenses13159132/515
Spells Other------
Spells Own Base Lists -2/2/22/2/2--3/3/3
Spells Own Closed132/2/22/2/218155/5
Spells Ow n Open82/2/22/2/29104/4
Subterf. - Mechanics2/5771/33/96
Subterfuge - Attack2/4881/33/64
Subterfuge - Stealth1/3661/32/44
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first2/5992/742/5
Weapon - second3/820203/863/9
Weapon - third3/92020484/10
Weapon - forth3/92020484
Weapon - fifth3/92020484
Weapon - sixth620206154
Weapon - seventh620206156
MA Combat Maneuvers39632/43

Elementalist, Swashbuckler, Seer, Nightblade, Warrior Mage

CategoryElementalistSwashbucklerSeerNightbladeWarrior Mage
Armor - Heavy116/6/67/7/71110
Armor - Light91/1/14/4/498
Armor - Medium104/4/46/6/6109
Artistic - Active2/52/42/42/52/5
Artistic - Passive2/52/42/42/52/5
Athletic - Brawn62/653/73/7
Athletic - Endurance32/632/72/7
Athletic - Gymnastics32/43/91/53/7
Awareness - Search.32/71/41/52/6
Body Development82/563/73/7
Combat Maneuvers91/473/73/6
Directed Spells2/5202/7104
Lore - General1/31/31/21/31/3
Lore - Magical1/441/53/62/6
Lore - Obscure3/72/72/53/73/7
Lore - Technical2/62/52/42/52/6
Martial Arts - Striking92/632/64
Martial Arts - Sweeps92/632/64
Outdoor - Animal52/432/72/7
Outdoor - Enviromen.52/73/72/62/7
Power Awareness2/572/63/72/7
Power Manipulation2/472/53/63/6
Power Point Devel.27244
Self Control42/532/42/7
Special Attacks81/3733
Special Defenses204/89320
Spells Other-----
Spells Own Base Lists2/2/2-2/2/23/3/33/3/3
Spells Own Closed2/2/2132/2/25/55/5
Spells Own Open2/2/282/2/24/44/4
Subterf. - Mechanics73/872/74
Subterfuge - Attack82/483/54
Subterfuge - Stealth52/561/42/7
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first92/763/93/9
Weapon - second202/71566
Weapon - third203/72077
Weapon - forth203/72088
Weapon - fifth203/8201510
Weapon - sixth203/8201515
Weapon - seventh203/9201515
MA Combat Maneuvers9332/54

Elemental Champion, Barbarian, Hybrid Priest, Semi Priest, Priest

CategoryElem. ChampionBarbarianHybrid PriestSemi PriestPriest
Armor - Heavy1010114/4/411
Armor - Light82/2/292/2/23/3/3
Armor - Medium94/4/4103/3/310
Artistic - Active2/52/52/52/52/5
Artistic - Passive2/52/52/52/52/5
Athletic - Brawn3/72/473/75
Athletic - Endurance2/72/532/73
Athletic - Gymnastics3/72/633/73
Awareness - Search.2/52/632/52/7
Body Development3/72/41/22/56/14
Combat Maneuvers3/62/692/56/14
Directed Spells4202/5203
Lore - General1/31/31/31/31/3
Lore - Magical2/562/53/62/4
Lore - Obscure3/73/73/73/72/5
Lore - Technical2/62/62/62/62/6
Martial Arts - Striking43/6969
Martial Arts - Sweeps43/8969
Outdoor - Animal2/71/332/63/6
Outdoor - Enviromen.2/51/362/63/6
Power Awareness2/782/562/5
Power Manipulation3/692/53/62/5
Power Point Devel.410342
Self Control2/72/752/75
Special Attacks31/482/46
Special Defenses3013201520
Spells Other-----
Spells Own Base Lists3/3/3-2/2/23/3/32/2/2
Spells Own Closed5/5232/2/25/52/2/2
Spells Ow n Open4/4142/2/24/42/2/2
Subterf. - Mechanics43/9777
Subterfuge - Attack42/5888
Subterfuge - Stealth2/71/4655
Tech./Trade - General3/73/73/73/73/7
Weapon - first4/101/592/77
Weapon - second62/5203/910
Weapon - third73/820412
Weapon - forth8420412
Weapon - fifth10420412
Weapon - sixth15620620
Weapon - seventh15620620
MA Combat Maneuvers44969


DP Development Point

FRPG Fantasy RolePlaying Game

HARP High Adventure Roleplaying

RM Rolemaster

RM2 Rolemaster 2nd edition

RMSS Rolemaster -- The standard system

RMFRP Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying

RMX Rolemaster Express

TP Training Package

Editor's Note:

This article is also available as a pdf.