On Rolemaster

Rolemaster has been on my mind today – what with the recent release of the first two tomes from the Rolemaster Unified edition of the game – and I somehow found myself reading a review of the first boxed set from 1982. The conclusion made me smile knowingly:

If the repetitions and conflicts were edited out, so the booklets didn’t just correct each other but fit together as if designed that way, if the charts with too-small printing were reprinted, and if there were even the barest description of some of the monsters to be found in a campaign, Rolemaster would pull together as a game — and would be an outstanding one.

Fantasy Gamer #1 (August/September 1983), Ronald Pehr, p.9

To my mind, the most recent release fixes most but not all of those complaints. Gone are the repetitions that arose from writing separate modular booklets and then throwing them in a box. The charts are, admittedly, still small and hard to read but this is mitigated by the digital format and ability to zoom in on the text. What hasn’t changed, 40 years later, is that the new edition doesn’t (yet) have any stats for creatures – that book is still in production.

Overall, the review in 1983 was favourable but it did highlight the same broad issues that Rolemaster has always borne: in short, it’s pretty arcane and not one for the neophyte. Back at the beginning, it was a big additional shift away from the restrictions of typical Class and Level games – even though Professions and Levels does look cosmetically similar – which offered players freedom to develop their characters in myriad ways. But it came at a cost of complexity.

Personally, my experience was that we played Rolemaster 2e for most of my teenaged years with no qualms. My most memorable character and some awesome sessions were played using Rolemaster. I still love the system and am itching to play the new Unified edition. The challenge, of course, is in finding players willing to join in. It could well be one for the solo table.

Game on!

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