The post below is written by UbiquitousRat, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.
Spell Law, as described in the earlier article, presents magic through three distinct yet interconnected Realms of Magic. These are the Essence, Channelling and Mentalism realms. In our campaign we have five heroes, four of whom have access to spells; the Ranger and Paladin are both of the Realm of Channelling, the Dabbler is of Essence, and the Mentalist is (unsurprisingly!) of Mentalism.
Low-Level, Low-Power… Yet Useful…
We’re playing at Level 2 right now, having taken the heroes quite quickly up from Level 1. This means that the spells available to our heroes are relatively limited in power.
In Rolemaster you can have a maximum number of Ranks in a Spell List equal to twice your current character Level. Thus, at Level 2, our heroes can potentially know each Spell List up to the 4th Level Spell. Casting spells above your character level is harder but possible, so some of the heroes have taken advantage of this. It’s important to realise, however, that each Spell List must be developed in the same way as any other skill: by spending precious Development Points as you ascend the Levels; this increasing your Rank in each Spell List can be expensive, especially for professions like the Ranger or Paladin who pay more than, for example, the Mentalist per Rank.
So, how useful is the magic proving? In short, very useful.
There has not been a single session so far in which each spellcaster has not opted to use their Spell Lists at least once. Magic in Rolemaster augments the abilities of the heroes, so it is sometimes a minor benefit… but any benefit is precious, especially at low-level.
Lykos (the Mentalist) is absolutely dreadful in a stand-up fight: as the son of a merchant family with minimal interest in the matters martial, the character can barely manage a Short Sword with a +10 bonus. In combat, however, Lykos has been standing back and using his Mind Attack spell list (which he has 3 Ranks in).
Mind Attack includes three great spells for combat: Jolts I, Hesitation, and Minor Pain. The first of these, most commonly used by Lykos, stuns the target should they fail to resist it. This means they can’t act for a round… which allows Lykos’ compatriots to clobber them without much threat of reprisal. It might not seem like much but in a fraught and dangerous fight, Lykos can actually deliver this spell repeatedly against a lone target with little trouble, effectively neutralising them. The other spells, while more potent, deliver similar augmenting effects: Hesitation slows reactions in Initiative, and Minor Pain zaps 25% of the target’s Concussion Hits. Ouch!
Risky, but Not That Risky
The other main thing to note about magic is that it always carries the risk of a Spell Failure, and thus a roll on the Spell Failure tables to see what happens… but only rarely disrupts play in a significant way. Thus, even with riskier higher-level castings, the players are able to make an attempt and judge the risks for themselves. We’ve had one disastrous moment when the Ranger found himself reasonably harmed by a spell failure, but nothing (yet) big enough to really deter spell use. This has meant that the guys feel their spell lists are worth the investment.
No Pesky Spell Limits
Finally, it’s worthy of note to say that the artificial spell limits of old D&D, such as so many spells per day, is not a part of Spell Law. The limit is set by your Power Points total, which you can invest in to improve and which is easily managed.
Certainly, sooner or later, your hero will run out of juice and have to stop casting. This is good game design which simply forces players to manage a resource. Yet you don’t ever feel desperately short of a spell unless you’ve been utterly reckless with your casting.
Magic used when needed, wisely and with care, is a constant support to the group. So far, at least, we’ve not come close to running out of Power Points.
We remain positive about the new Rolemaster. There are little niggles, such as the Initiative system, which we opted to simplify using the options in the game, but on the whole it’s playing well.
As for magic… well, it’s potent in a non-flashy kind of way.
Just take it from us that a well-placed yet seemingly innocuous power can prove decisive. And, to our minds, that’s the stuff that good roleplaying is made of.
UbiquitousRat is a long-time roleplayer and gamesmaster who has a history with gaming going back to 1979. In 1994 he joined Games Workshop, spending 12 years in the gaming industry at the coal-face of tabletop wargaming. In 1998 he founded the Friday Night Roleplay group at his home in suburban Nottinghamshire, UK, and ever since has been the primary GM. Oh, and he’s also a high school teacher during the daytime.