It happened. I was sitting down reading over the original AD&D 1e Dungeon Masters Guide, reading all of those glorious old school rules on how combat was resolved during the golden age of our hobby. And then, it strucked me. I raced up off of our couch and into the bedroom, straight to the bookshelves where I grabbed the three red-bound softcover books titled “Arms Law”, “Character Law” and “Spell Law”. I read through them, grinning, as if for once I was picking up a foreign tongue or peering into the mind of some mad prophet. Rolemaster, it seemed, finally made sense to me.
I bought these books almost a year ago, eager to have in my collection one of the most famous, if not infamous, title in RPG history. But to be honest, the original layouts of the core books were like greek to me. And to be honest, I must confess, it still frustrates me after weeks of reading through to look things up sometimes. I loved the concept, the ideas and the core system of the game…but navigating through the chapters, having to flip back and forth and trying to decipher what was a rules option and what was an important core rule became tedious.
Not willing to toss the game to the side, I ended up purchasing a bundle of Rolemaster Classic in both hard copies and PDF form.
When Old is New Again
The idea behind Rolemaster Classic is to pretty much bring back the second edition rules of Rolemaster, and present them with better editing, clarified rules and the occasional rules balance. Or, as I explained to my gaming group “They took the old books, and wrote them for fucking humans to understand.” I’m not going to splurge into details or review the Rolemaster system….there’s plenty out there covering it. But, I did want to chime in some thoughts about what makes RMC really stand out for me:
- Bringing an Old System Back: How cool is it that they brought back support for the old rules, while keeping support for the newer editions as well? That’s almost unheard of these days. It would be like Wizards of the Coast suddenly bringing AD&D back as “Dungeons & Dragons Classic” or something.
- Trimming the Fat when needed: I’m sorry, the original Rolemaster initiative system was horrid. The new system keeps the tactical play but also keeps it easier to track. Overall, the system is still the same, but most of it is completely re-written and straight forward for a newcomer to the game to be able to pick up on.
- The flow just makes sense: If you were to read the original red book Character Law from the beginning, you’ll read rules and charts pertaining to health, death, poisons, disease, movement, encumbrance, equipment and coinage before you even get to where “Character Law” even starts. From there, you’ll learn about skills before your learn professions, experience values before keeping track of character sheets, and all of that comes before Chapter 10: Character Creation. The new “Character Law” kicks off with an overview of Character Creation after the standard introductions, and the proceeding chapters flow in the order one would probably use for the creation process.
- Aesthetically Pleasing; Easier to Read: The artwork in the new books are very well done. The fonts are easier on the eyes, and the tables are more legible and stand out from the regular text a lot better. Also, like the above, the tables generally flow in the relevant sections quite nicely.
So, that’s my initial 2 cents on the Rolemaster Classic books. I think they did the system justice; and anyone wanting to break away from the usual Fantasy games could easily hop into this system without getting too far in over their head. It’s still a bit of a crunchy system, and definitely still just as lethal….but the editing on these books makes the process a lot clearer and easy to reference. If you’re still skeptical about it, they also have “Rolemaster Express” which is based on the same system as RMC, scaled down to its essentials and stands alone in a single book (which I believe sells for only 10 bucks or so.)