Trying Rolemaster Unified

While under siege and stuck at home today, I took the opportunity to sit down with Rolemaster Core Law from the new edition of the game. The plan was to roll-up a character and see how the new rules feel compared to my memories of Rolemaster Classic and FRP editions.

The first thing to say was that although many specifics have changed, it’s still the familiar game I remember and have played over many years. It’s certainly offers a larger range of choices in relation to species, cultures, and professions than most games – the benefit of 40 or more years of development, I suppose. I always enjoyed the big range of options in Rolemaster and appreciate this wide choice, even if I don’t reckon much to some of the actual species.

The second thing to say is that I largely dislike the artwork throughout. I know this is very subjective but the art is very cartoonish and some images are just plain not my idea of heroic fantasy: one example sees a large giant-like character carrying two smaller characters, one in a harness at the front (with no weapons) while the other balances on the big one’s head casting a spell. I am pretty sure there are some big penalties for that sort of shenanigans, as well as feeling that it’s just plain silly.

The process of character creation was, of course, incredibly slow first time out. Given that I am experienced with Rolemaster, I still found wading through the copious pages of rules long and arduous. As with all things, mastery comes from familiarity and repetition. I got there in the end but was struck by the levels of detail that exist on the six-page character sheet. Not a game for the faint-hearted.

The big benefit of all that detail, of course, is that you can create a very specific build for your character. I was building a classic Human Thief, whom I named Goriel after my original Halfling Thief from the 1980s. Even though the original was a Halfling, I wanted to keep things simple first time out. I may modify him at a later date.

I particularly enjoyed the stat generation process: roll 1D100 three times for each of the ten stats and take the highest as the Potential and the median at the Temporary value, discarding the lowest. From there you get to make two tweaks and two swaps to the values, which allows for some customisation. Of course, for the neophyte player this would be guesswork.

I’m not sure this is a game that will get a lot of airing, given that I don’t know many interested players these days. I know several gamers who would be put off by the lengthy character creation process and would dislike having to spend some 85 DP per level for a Common Human character. The thing you have to recognise is that all that complex maths is front-loaded to allow a very straight-forward game engine to run in-session… but spending lots of points is hard mental graft.

I’m curious to muck around with it some more, making some additional characters and trying some simple combats. Whether I will see it through to the table is questionable: Rolemaster Unified is competing with BRP and GURPS, both of which offer a rich customisation range but both of which are simpler. But, hey, I guess I enjoy tinkering enough to give Rolemaster at least one outing.

Game on!


  1. I’m hoping to read more from you on this game. Comparisons with BRP and the original game, as well as any thoughts you might have on using it with the old Middle Earth supplements, would be most welcome. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never did get thar play by post off the ground. I actually find it hard to get Rolemaster games going even with players. Think I have a psychological block around my ability to run the game to be honest!

    Liked by 1 person

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