Individual Skill Cost Options for RMU

Copyright David J. Hay © 2017

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"Whether you hope to play a Cavalier, Chaos Lord, or Forcemage, RMU gives you the tools to create any class you want."

The Issue of Skill Costs

The second edition of Rolemaster (RM2) had a growing problem: Skill bloat. Character Law had roughly 28 primary skills (if one treats different weapons and maneuvering in armor as separate skills) and 40 optional secondary skills. This was a manageable number, but as the game’s rules overflowed from the core book of Character Law into multiple Rolemaster Companions, the number of skills rose dramatically. The master charts in Rolemaster Companion II list 214 skills, and the later Companions added still more. While the multiplication of skills added depth to the system and allowed for highly specialized classes, it also created what many players and GMs considered to be problems. One of these was that it slowed character creation, because new players had to read through dozens of skill descriptions (and record their individual costs in development points) before deciding which skills to buy. The increasing specialization of skills also strained characters’ overall development point budgets and limited the effectiveness of existing skills. Whereas a character in the base game could use the Perception skill to tell if an opponent was lying, sense an ambush, and detect a warp in reality, the Rolemaster Companion II distinguished these as separate skills (Lie Perception, Sense Ambush, and Detect Reality Warp). The companions introduced optional rules such as skill similarities and extra development points to address the issues that the expanding number of skills was causing, but these additional rules added still further complexities.

The RMU Solution

RMU addresses the issue of skills by reducing the overall number of skills in the system, and by grouping skills into categories. All skills in the same category now have the same development point cost (the skills in the Combat Training and Spell categories are the only exceptions). This new system greatly speeds up character creation and largely eliminates the problem of skill bloat.

A More Specialized Option

Some players might nevertheless prefer to play classes with more specialized skill costs, like those in RM2—without having to contend with the issue of skill bloat. Players might for example want their Magician’s cost for Directed Spells to be cheaper than his cost for Channeling (both are in RMU’s Power Manipulation category, at a cost of 2/3), or they might want their Druid’s cost for Survival in the wilderness to be cheaper than her cost for Piloting mechanical contraptions (both are in RMU’s Environmental category, at a cost of 1/3). In short, players might want skill costs to vary even within a category.

The following is an optional rule for those who want more specialized classes in their RMU game—classes that are more like Second Edition Rolemaster (RM2) classes. This rule amends the existing RMU profession creation rules (Arms and Character Law, Section 11.7, p. 111) to allow skill costs to vary within a category. The optional rule states this: ‘The costs of individual skills can also be modified up or down, but each decrease in a skill’s cost must be matched by an equal increase in the cost of another skill within the same category, and likewise each increase in the cost of a skill must be matched by a corresponding decrease in a skill cost within the same category.’ So for example, the Magician can now decrease the cost of Directed Spells from 2/3 to 1/3, so long as he also increases Channeling (or another appropriate skill cost in the Power Manipulation category) to 2/4. The Druid can likewise increase the cost of Piloting to 2/3 so that she can also decrease the cost of survival to 1/2. Arms and Character Law, section 11.7, gives the full list of step progressions, which is this: 1/2, 1/3, 2/3, 2/4, 3/4, 3/5, 4/6, 5/7, 6/8, 9/12, 12/5, 16/20, and 20/24.

These rules can be used to modify existing professions to make them more like RM2 professions, or to create entirely new and unique professions. This chart present all the existing RMU classes (and a few of the old RM2 ones) with appropriate modifications already made.

Here is the same chart with colors showing all the individual skill cost modifications that have been made. Light green indicates that a skill has been reduced in cost by one step, and dark green by two or more steps, while light red indicates a skill has been increased in cost by one step, and dark red by two or more steps.

Balance Implications

The new costs and the optional rule modification enable optimizations of each class to achieve more specialized class concepts. They necessarily have significant balance implications, however, which each GM and group should carefully consider. These more specialized versions of the classes will save an estimated 5 to 10 development points per level—and possibly more—provided that they buy skills in line with the class concept. Rangers for example will find they have cheaper costs for Lore: Creatures and Woodcrafting. However, they also now have higher costs for skills that lie outside of the core class concept of the Ranger, such as Directed Spells and Mechanics. So if you want to play a non-stereotypical Ranger, who dabbles in skills that Rangers are not especially known for, you will end up paying a higher price in DP if you use the new rule. This is the inevitable downside of choosing more specialized classes.

Additional Specialization Options

Want still more specialized classes? RMU can handle that, too. Here are two ways you can further specialize your professions’ skill costs:

Option 1: You can also reduce the cost of each skill in which your character chooses to take a ‘professional skill bonus’ (see Arms and Character Law, Section 3.4). The recommended reduction in cost is one step. So for example, if your Fighter chooses to take Body Development as one of his professional skills, his cost for Body Development would be reduced from 1/3 to 1/2. Note that no cost can be reduced below the lowest cost, which is 1/2. This option gives the player the power to further customize his or her profession in a manner that is fully compatible with the core class concept, because each profession’s list of ‘professional skills’ define that profession’s ‘core strengths’ (Arms and Character Law, section 3.4).

Option 2: In the rule and chart explained above, each increase or decrease in a skill’s cost has been matched by a corresponding decrease or increase in the cost of another skill ‘within the same category’. If you want absolutely the most specialization possible, you can simply disregard the phrase ‘within the same category.’ By doing so, you allow the matching increase or decrease to be made in any skill, regardless of category. So for example, you could allow the Magician to decrease her cost for Directed Spells, and allow her to compensate by raising her cost in another skill in a different category, such as Climbing. This option can produce still greater DP savings, but again, only as long as the character chooses to develop skills that are near the core of the class concept. It will actually produce considerably higher DP costs if the character chooses to develop skills outside of the class concept.

Get Started!

So don’t be afraid to experiment with more specialized classes in RMU! The new system is flexible and accommodating, and with a little modification, its rules for customizing professions can allow you to create highly specialized classes to fulfill virtually any character concept. Whether you hope to play a Cavalier, Chaos Lord, or Forcemage, RMU gives you the tools to create any class you want.

Notes to the Chart

  • The final category, ‘Baseline’, lists the maximum costs for each skill. No skill should be raised above these costs unless exceptional circumstances require it.
  • Non-channeling spell users have generally taken a cost increase in Channeling (usually 1 step), and Channeling spell users have taken a cost decrease, due to the fact that using the Channeling realm accustoms casters to Channeling spells.
  • Classes without a wilderness/animal focus have taken a cost decrease in riding animals at the expense of a cost increase in handling them, just as today many more people know how to ride cars than fix them. Similarly, classes without a specific wilderness/tracking focus have taken a cost decrease in perception at the expense of a cost increase in tracking.
  • Hybrids have taken a cost decrease in Lore: Spells, since having access to two casting realms means being more readily familiar with the spells in both realms.
  • Classes without easy access to fly spells (Arms users and Channeling users) have generally taken a cost increase in flying, and a cost decrease in other movement skills.
  • The Astrologer profession has been constructed from scratch, following the RMU rules for customizing professions (Arms and Character Law, 11.7).
  • The Nightblade profession has taken the Magent’s costs as its base costs. It has then taken individual skill cost modifications according to the ‘More Specialized Option’ explained at the beginning of this article.
  • The Beastmaster profession has taken the Ranger’s costs as its base costs. Next, following the RMU rules for customizing professions, the Beastmaster has further adjusted the costs of four entire categories: it has reduced the costs of the categories of Animal and Perception skills by one step downwards, and correspondingly raised the costs of the entire categories of Combat Expertise and Social by one step upwards. It has then taken individual skill cost modifications according to the ‘More Specialized Option’ explained at the beginning of this article.
  • The Warrior Mage profession has taken the Bard’s costs as its base costs. Following the RMU rules for customizing professions, the Warrior Mage has then adjusted the costs of multiple categories, and finally taken individual skill cost modifications according to the ‘More Specialized Option’ explained at the beginning of this article.
  • The Archmage profession has taken the Sorcerer’s costs as its base costs. It has then added an additional spellcasting realm (5 Aptitude points) and reduced the cost of the individual skill ‘Arcane Spells’ by six steps downwards (reckoning each reduction in an individual skill as 1/3 of an aptitude point), while correspondingly raising the costs of seven entire skill categories.