Levelless Rolemaster


These are guidelines for running RMSS without experience points and levels. Rolemaster is by nature mostly a skill-based system, but there are still several game mechanics that hinge on your level. Therefore, removing levels isn't a trivial affair. I present here my solutions to the problems that arise in the hope that others can benefit from my experience.

The problems

The problems that arise when discarding levels are many. I will list them here with links pointing to the solutions I have adopted. If anyone can find new problems that I have not yet addressed, please do drop me an email and let me know.

ProblemHuh? Why is that a problem?
Gaining Skills Well, when you cannot gain new levels (since they don`t exist anymore), when do you get to acquire new skills? And how?
Raising stats Normally, stats are raised as you increase your level. Since you no longer do this, one needs a new mechanism by which stats increase.
Spellcasting In RMSR, a spell caster`s proficiency is very dependant upon his level. Spells of a lower level than himself become increasingly easy to cast, those of a higher level can be hazardous to his health. This has to be reflected somehow in a levelless system.
Resistance Normally, your ability to resist attacks, be they magical, mental or physical such as poisons and disease, is affected by your level to a large degree. This must be handled.
NPCs NPCs in premade settings or adventures were constructed using core RMSR. This means that they ill fit a level-less system. They must somehow be convertible to such a system, and this is a major headache.


Skill development

Developing skills is handled periodically. Whenever the GM feels that it is appropriate, he will inform the players that they may go through a 'skill advancement'. At this time, they will purchase skills in exactly the same manner as is normally done when raising a level. There are some important differences though.

Stat development

Stats are not automatically raised at this time. If a character wishes to, and has the cross(es) needed - see below - he may purchase a stat gain roll for 8 development points base cost. The cost for raising a stat is a plain "8" for all professions, meaning that it can only be done once per development period per stat. When such a purchase is made, a regular roll is made on the stat gain table, do note that this may cause the stat to deteriorate. Let me stress that this 8-point cost only allows a stat gain roll on a single stat - if you want several stat gains, you need to pay several times.

Eligibility of purchase

Characters are not allowed to buy just any skill. To be able to develop a skill, the character needs to have one or more `crosses` for that skill. He will need one cross per rank to be bought in a given skill. He may of course not buy any more ranks than are normally allowed by his skill cost, excess crosses are wasted. Do note that this means that a character will not necessarily be able to spend all his development points if he has not acquired sufficient crosses. In addition, immediately after skill purchase is complete, all crosses are deleted from the character sheet. This means that the opportunity to learn the skills with unused crosses has passed by for this time.

Also, a character may acquire `half crosses`. Two half crosses make one whole. If a character has a half cross, purchasing a skill rank costs double. A character may choose to convert one cross on a skill into two half crosses on that skill, making for a large DP cost but possibly enabling him to spend more of his DPs and getting a larger skill increase. If a character has one or more crosses and one or more half crosses, the half cross(es) always double the cost of the last skill rank(s) bought. Crosses are marked off as just that in the small boxes that tend to be right next to skills and categories. Half crosses are slashes. Stats don`t have cute little boxes, so one will have to improvise.

optional
Whole crosses in a skill are counted as extra ranks for as long as the crosses remain. This means that benefits from gaining crosses are felt right away, not at some arbitrary point in the future. After a skill development, as unused crosses are removed, the character has forgotten what he learned and no longer benefits from it unless he opted to spend DPs making the skill permanent. This enables characters to temporarily gain a skill that they know they will only need once or twice and then forget about it later (i.e., do the training but don't spend the DPs when that time comes). Note that no more crosses than the amount which could be learned in one skill advancement may count as extra ranks. If this option is used, the actual skill purchase process will lose some of its magic, as its only real purpose is to make the higher skill bonuses permanent ranks in stead of just temporary ones. You will not see the sudden raise in skill that often accompanies this process. It will add some difficulty in calculating skill bonuses, as the player has to take into account the crosses as well. I use this and so far find it recommendable if you can live with the added complexity.
example
Nisse has five skill ranks in his broadsword skill. His total skill bonus is 50. He acquires a cross for that skill after a short battle. This counts as one additional rank, and so Nisse now has a broadsword skill of 53. Later, Nisse is assaulted once again and gains another cross in broadsword. He now has two. However, his skill cost for broadsword is "9" (not his favourite weapon), and so he is only allowed to purchase one rank per advancement. This also means that this last cross does not give him an additional temporary rank. His total bonus is still 53. At the end of that day, the GM decides that Nisse can go through skill advancement. Nisse, having better things to spend his DPs on, decides against purchasing new ranks for broadsword. After the development is complete, he deletes both crosses in the broadsword skill and does not add any ranks (as he didn't buy them). His skill is back down to 50. Whatever those two scuffles taught him, he has now forgotten.
optional
A half cross in an everyman skill allows one to purchase one single rank in that skill at the normal skill rank cost. In practice, what you are doing is buying half a rank and having that doubled to a full rank by the fact that it is an everyman skill. How to treat occupational skills? Beats me ...

Obtaining crosses

A character obtains crosses in the following manner;
example
Fomla the laywoman (how's that for a politically correct profession name?) is attempting to climb a cliff to get away from something (quite possibly a malevolent gazebo). Unfortunately, she isn`t very good at it and the rock is slippery. She rolls a 92, adds her skill of 10 and fails, falling down. Her roll of 92 does earn her a half cross in 'Climbing' in spite of her failure. She states she will be using acrobatics to cushion the fall. She rolls 96, 98 and 58 plus her skill of 85 = 337, more than enough to land gracefully. Her initial roll of 96 earns her one cross in 'Acrobatics'. She then decides to try and outrun whatever it was she was trying to escape, and starts sprinting. She rolls 89 plus 120 for the skill, a total of 209. She succeeds by a large margin, but does not receive any crosses for it since her roll was `only` 89.
example
Trebein the merchant captain is sailing his ship from Kaitaine to Danarchis, a trip that takes him about fourty days. During this time he is responsible for sailing the ship much of the time. The GM rules that his constant use of 'Sailing' and 'Boat Pilot' during this time earns him two crosses in each, and that he receives one cross in each of 'Navigation' and 'Weather Watching'. He spends an average of two hours per day reading about the local flora and fauna in Danarchis. The GM decides that during the trip he only gets one cross in either 'Flora Lore', 'Fauna Lore' or 'Danarchis Region Lore' because of the less-than-perfect learning conditions and the fact that the book isn`t particularly good.
optional
(highly recommended) Only give crosses for 'important' or 'meaningful' rolls. No crosses gained during innocent sparring, for instance (that's training). Should keep abuse to a minimum.
example
Having just entered the fabled city of Sel-Kai, Dum spots a rather large temple-like structure. His player asks the GM what deity it is for, upon which the GM asks for a 'Religion' roll. Dum rolls a 94, successfully recognizing it as a temple for Andaras. Deeming the action largely irrelevant and trivial, the GM does not award a half cross for this.
optional
Give crosses for fumbles. It is said one learns from one's mistakes. I do not use this, and would recommend only giving half crosses for it. One reason for not using it is that it makes the statistics behind the gaining of crosses weird. Such as, one gains half-crosses in Flail more often than Dagger since the former has a higher fumble rate. Of course, one can easily think of variations of this option that might work just as well as my system above.
optional
Calculate the effect of an instructor in the following manner: The instructor`s effective teaching skill rank is either (his skill rank in Teaching) or (his skill rank in the taught skill MINUS the pupil's skill rank in the taught skill) - whichever is less. Any result below one is treated as one, UNLESS the instructor doesn`t really have any skill ranks in Teaching. Now, calculate the effective teaching skill bonus using the above skill rank and use this skill as an increase in the effectiveness of the training. A final skill bonus of 50 would result in a training efficiency of 150%, meaning that it would take 10/1.5 = 7 days of four-hour training to acquire one cross.
optional
One can conceive of many good ways to obtain crosses, I am not claiming that mine is the only true way. For instance, one could award a cross whenever an action that is considered Extremely Hard or tougher succeeds, and half a cross for Very Hard. In this case, one would have to decide how to translate melee combat into the difficulty categories and such, not something I will spend a lot of time thinking about. The bottom line is that the only really important thing here is to introduce a way by which characters can gain crosses or the players will tend to get frustrated (and with good reason). As long as it works for you, go with it. Of course, the 'gaining crosses' system you use will affect your players' actions to some degree. Thus, you can use the system to steer your campaign in one direction or the other.
Now, this allows a character to obtain crosses in specific skills. It does not say anything about categories or stats (well, ok, so you can use training for stats), which is what I will discuss next.

Transferring crosses

Whether the process of transferring crosses can take place at any time, can only take place at the time of receiving the cross, or can only take place at the time of skill advancement is up to the individual GM. So far, I have let the players have free reins on this but I would like to get it more structured. Especially since I have crosses count as extra ranks.
optional
A half cross in a skill or category may be transferred to being a quarter cross in one of the pertinent stats. This quarter cross is useless in itself, but can be complemented by transferring another quarter cross from somewhere else. In other words, one can pool quarter crosses.
optional
A quarter cross in a stat may be used to buy a stat gain roll at four times the normal price (4x8=32 DP). You saw this one coming a mile off.
optional
(recommended) Whenever a cross is given for one of the awareness skills, it may freely be put in any fitting awareness skill. This logic could possibly be applied to other skills as well, such as lore skills and definately to resistance skills.

example
Anrug`s party has holed up in a back alley of Kaitaine. While Anrug is asleep, armed thieves sneak up on the party. The guard doesn't notice. All the sleeping party members get to roll Alertness at -100 (being asleep plus the attackers sneaking) to wake up before the attack. Anruk rolls a 99, then a 92 and has an alertness of 40. The total is 131, enough to wake up aware something is amiss. He receives a cross for rolling 99 on his first d100 roll of the 'Alertness' static maneuver, thereby spotting the ambush. He is free to put the cross in 'Sense Ambush', 'Situational Awareness: Asleep' or 'Situational Awareness: Urban' in stead if he wishes at no loss. Of course, he can also put it in 'Alertness' which is what he really rolled against in the first place.
example
Following the above example, Anrug could now put the one cross in 'Sit.Aw:Asleep' then proceed to transfer the cross to the category at no loss, alternatively transfer it to one of that category's stats at the normal 50% loss.


Spell casting

Spell casting deserves - and needs - special treatment. We need a way by which to derive the effective spell casting level of a person. I have elected to introduce skills for this, with a fallback on stat bonuses. This system seems to create more powerful spell casters at first, but it also seems to inhibit their rise to great power somewhat. Enough chit-chat, here it is;

Effective spell casting level

Simply put, a spell caster's effective level is either (his total skill bonus in 'Magical Aptitude [realm]') or (his realm stat bonus), whichever is higher. Note that each realm has a separate 'Magical Aptitude' skill. A hybrid spell caster needs two of these skills. His effective spell casting level for each realm is calculated from that realm's skill or realm stat, that for his base spells is the lower of the two realms.
optional
There is a lot of room for balancing here. Halve the stat bonus for calculating effective level, or double it (yikes!). Change the cost and/or progression of the 'Magical Aptitude' skill. Do whatever suits you to keep the magic level in check.
optional
The treatment of hybrids may seem a bit harsh. If so, change it. Make a 'Magical Aptitude [realm1/realm2]' skill especially for hybrids, let them just choose one of the realms, stick with just one 'Magical Aptitude' for all realms or whatever strikes your fancy.
Using this system, the GM must choose whether or not a spell caster must use another 'Magical Aptitude' than his own when casting spells he has learnt from another realm. Some reason that such spells were converted to the caster's realm while learning them, thus explaining the high DP cost and letting them use their old 'Magical Aptitude' skill. Others say that the spells stay in their old realm, but are hard to learn simply because they are 'different' and would require a separate 'Magical Aptitude' for these spells.
For description of the skills, see the
Skill Appendix. The 'Magical Aptitude' skills are all lumped into a whole new category called 'Magical Aptitude'.

Learning spell lists

note
This entire section should be considered very optional. It represents an alternative way of gaining spells (which is still rather similiar to the old way). I like it, you may not.
A character receives crosses in spell lists in just the same manner as he does in other skills. When a character's ranks in a spell list increase (either by buying the ranks, or temporarily increasing it by having whole crosses), I use the following guidelines;
There are two stages to 'really' advancing one level in a spell list; first one has to gain the power level needed, in other words one needs to develop the intuition and understanding of the list necessary to draw upon the magical power. Second, one has to study the details of the spell on that level. These two stages are treated as follows;
  1. After somehow having gained a cross in a spell list, the character is eligible to buy another rank in that list at skill advancement time. This only serves to increase his power level in the list, he does not gain a new spell by doing this. Having achieved the power level (new skill rank total) in the list is useful for gaining a higher total skill bonus in the list and for casting lower level spells at a higher level without overcasting.
    If the optional rules for temporary ranks is used, whole crosses in spell lists always supply temporarily higher power levels, and these power levels may not be filled with spells until they are made permanent (see below).
  2. Once a higher power level has been achieved, the character may choose to study the spell on that level. The time required for this is very much left at the discretion of the GM, I use the same time normally needed to acquire one cross in a skill (10 days). Others may wish to use the 'spell research' times or somesuch. This study has to take place after the cross for the new power level has been acquired. The spell will not be learned, or usable, until that cross is turned into a skill rank. If at any time a character does not have a total skill rank (normal plus temporary) at least equal to the level of the spell studied, the spell must be studied again later if it is to be learned (i.e., he 'forgets' the study). A character may always study spells for power levels that he has already acquired. The study and acquisition of a spell does not in itself involve gaining crosses or spending development points - this has already been done in acquiring the power level. It is merely a time-consuming affair. Which can be bad enough. Do note that to be able to study a spell, the character needs to have some means with which to do this. A laboratory, a magical tome, a magical scroll, a teacher, whatever. Some methods may be more time consuming than others.

    example
    Ild, a young hopeful Magician, already has five ranks in 'Fire Law'. He has learned 'Boil Liquid'(1st), 'Woodfires'(3rd) and 'Wall of Fire'(4th). He has earlier elected not to learn 'Warm Solid'(2nd) and has not yet had a chance to learn 'Heat Solid'(5th). In other words, he has a power level of 5 in the list, and he knows the spells on levels 1, 3 and 4. After a nasty encounter with some Kaeden, he gained one cross in 'Fire Law' after frying several of the critters with a wall of fire. Soon thereafter, he stays for a week in a larger city, and gains access to a magic library. He decides to study a 'Fire Law' spell while he has the chance. Now, he can either study 'Warm Solid'(2nd) or 'Heat Solid'(5th). He can also study 'Fire Bolt I'(6th), but if he does so he will not yet gain the ability to cast the spell as he only potentially (and, for now, temporarily) has power level 6 in 'Fire Law'. He cannot study 'Call Flame I'(7th), he would have needed to have two crosses for that (5 ranks plus 2 crosses = 7). He wants to study 'Heat Solid'(5th), but the GM rules that this spell is an enhancement of the 'Warm Solid'(2nd) spell and so that spell has to be learned first (note that this is an option described below). Pissed off, Ild's player decides to study 'Fire Bolt I'(6th) in stead. And so he does. Note again, that he does not now gain the ability to actually cast the spell, he will have to convert the cross into a skill rank first, which will bring his skill ranks up to 6. Much later, after further adventures, the GM decides that the players can do a skill advancement for their characters. Now, Ild has acquired several crosses in rare skills which are hard to get to and ends up several DPs short for buying a rank in 'Fire Law'. This means that his cross in the spell list disappears and he still only has 5 skill ranks. This also means that the study he did on 'Fire Bolt I'(6th) is lost. If he ever wants to learn this spell in the future, he must first acquire a cross or rank in 'Fire Law' and then do the study again.
Do note that with this system, which deviates somewhat from RMSR, several options are open. A character may choose not to study several spells that he finds uninteresting, he may learn several spells on the same level and he may delay learning actual spells until he is in a safe place with plenty of time on his hands.
optional
(recommended) Do not allow the learning of a spell unless all previous versions of the same spell are also learned, i.e., you cannot learn 'Sleep X' without first having learned 'Sleep V' and 'Sleep VII' (from the Spirit Mastery spell list).
optional
In stead of putting a cross in a spell list, a character may choose to put it in 'Power Point Development', 'Magical Aptitude' for that realm or 'Spell Mastery' for that list.


Resistance

Resistance handling is pretty straight-forward. In stead of using your level (which you don't have anyway), you use the most appropriate 'Resistance' type skill. See the skill listing below for a suggested list of 'Resistance' skills. The skill bonus in these skills tends to be low, because of the conservative progression and the absence of stat bonuses. Do note that there are no 'defaults' to these skills, as there are for the Magical Aptitude skills. In stead everyone starts at 1.

Improving resistance

There are several ways to improve one's resistance skill. The most obvious is to expose oneself to the poison/disease/magic/whatever. This can be done in two ways; either as practice (exposing oneself to non-dangerous doses, increasing doses slowly) or as an 'accident' (i.e., a potentially life-threatening or otherwise dangerous situation).

In the first case, use the regular training rules for acquiring crosses. Do demand that the source of poison/disease/fear/magic/whatever is regularly available during the training time. This restriction will cause magic resistance training to be limited by the number of power points available to whoever attacks you. I generally require that the spell be cast on the subject at least once every five minutes during the training period.

example
Sove, a mage specialising in training other people's magical resistance, is using 'Sleep V'(1st) to train a young student's 'Essence Resistance' skill. Do note that this spell is only useful for training those with a resistance skill bonus of five or below. Spending four hours per day training, Sove would need to spend 48 Power Points per student (one spell per five minutes for four hours, at one PP per spell). If these Power Points are not avaible, he will have to spend less time per day training and so increase the number of days needed.
In the second case, I award crosses and even ranks when characters are attacked in a potentially dangerous situation. Some GM discretion involved here. However, I use the following guidelines for awarding crosses and ranks; The rationale behind doing it like this is shaky - I simply like it this way. Feel free to alter it to fit your own desires.

Other possible ways to increase resistance skills is through various spells, for instance could one use the 'Changeling' spells from old RM 2nd ed to increase the body's resistance to various effects. I am sure one can think of other ways as well.

I made him a poison he simply couldn't resist

Some attacks may be irresistable (primarily certain poisons and diseases, possibly some fear attacks), as the GM decides. In these cases, ignore the resistance skills and use the guidelines in C&T for Con-based and/or Luck-based RRs. I know these rules were in some or all C&Ts, I have no idea if they are in C&M. In the cases of poisons that are particularly hard to resist, either up the level or decrease the resistance skill.

Too much of anything...

What I really think is missing in RMSR are rules for increasing or decreasing dosages for poisons. My thanks go to Scott McLellan for some help in understanding how poisons tend to work. While the following is extremely simplified it should work for gaming purposes. If you desire a more realistic treatment of poisons, the effects really should depend a lot on the method of insertion of the poison into the target (i.e., ingest, apply, breathe, etc.). The above rules obviously do not take this into account.

NPCs

The most difficult thing to convert with regards to NPCs are their resistance levels. Everything else is pretty straight-forward. Let them keep their skills as they are, give them appropriate Magical Aptitudes for their profession and level and let them keep their spells.

Resistances, however, are more difficult. One approach is to let them simply use their old level for all resistances. Although the simplicity in this approach is appealing, I try to give this subject some more thought. Try to consider the character's past life and decide what kind of ill effects he has encountered often. Then give him good resistance skills for these and lower resistances for others. I really can't be of much more help then this, sorry.

example
Some time ago, I ran the 'Tower of the Third Moon' scenario from Jaiman - Land of Twilight, a campaign book for Shadow World by ICE. In this scenario there is an evil 20th level undead (succubus-ish) Sorceror. I figured that since she had not really been in the presence of other spell-casters a lot (she was the leader of a cult of succubus-like female undead) and since the spell-casting abilities she did have were largely given by an evil amulet she had, her ability to resist Mentalism would be poor. She would have had the opportunity to practice resistance of Channeling and Essence on her own accord. Thus, her Mentalism Resistance skill was rather low compared to her level. I also gave her relatively low resistance skills for poison and disease. She was no adventurer, and those that entered the tower in the past were generally handled by the cult members before they got as far as to poisoning the Sorceror. So she didn't have much 'experience' in this regard.
Now, of course, being level 20, she has been around, so she doesn't hit rock-bottom in any resistance skills, but I do believe she was as low as 10th level in some of them.

New Skills

     
Category Name Category Progression Development Cost Stats
Magical Aptitude 0*0*0*0*0 as Power Manipulation none
Skill Name Note Skill Progression: 1*1*0.5*0.25*0.1
Essence Aptitude
Channeling Aptitude
Mentalism Aptitude
Arcane Aptitude RESTRICTED
PSI Aptitude RESTRICTED




     
Category Name Category Progression Development Cost Stats
Magical Resistance 0*0*0*0*0 as Power Awareness none
Skill Name Note Skill Progression: 1*1*0.5*0.25*0.1
Essence Resistance
Channeling Resistance
Mentalism Resistance
PSI Resistance RESTRICTED




     
Category Name Category Progression Development Cost Stats
Physical Resistance 0*0*0*0*0 as Body Development none
Skill Name Note Skill Progression: 1*1*0.5*0.25*0.1
<specific disease> Resistance EVERYMAN except Genetic and Psychiatric which are normal
Bubonic Disease Resistance
Chemical Disease Resistance
Genetic Disease Resistance RESTRICTED
Pneumonic Disease Resistance
Psychiatric Disease Resistance RESTRICTED
<specific poison> Resistance EVERYMAN
Circulatory Poison Resistance
Conversion Poison Resistance
Muscle Poison Resistance
Nerve Posion Resistance
Reduction Poison Resistance
Respiratory Poison Resistance




     
Category Name Category Progression Development Cost Stats
Mental Resistance 0*0*0*0*0 as Self Control none
Skill Name Note Skill Progression: 1*1*0.5*0.25*0.1
<specific fear source> Resistance EVERYMAN
Undead Fear Resistance RESTRICTED
Demon/Devil Fear Resistance RESTRICTED
Dragon Fear Resistance RESTRICTED
<other general creature type> Resistance generally RESTRICTED
Phobia/Neurosis Resistance

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Last modified: Mon Sep 27 12:05:36 CEST 2004