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The Oracle at Scalu.
Playing at nostalgia with Rolemaster II
Philonexus, centaur bounty hunter; Vanderjack, rogue of the port of Izar; Elessar, an elven foreigner to these lands in search of the masters of yore. And Deronil, last of the Deathless Regiment —think Sardaukar. They have set themselves to see the Oracle at Scalu. This is their tragic tale.
They waste no time searching for a ship to ferry them across the bay of Izar - only no captain will set down anywhere near the acropolis of Scalu!
Vanderjack works a deal with Captin Austin of the Eclectic Medusa, a merchant ship bound east for Sarnak City. She will drop them at Sharin along the way. They can't afford passage so they will work the voyage.
On the day before sailing off, Elessar visits the libraries of Izar only to find scant on the Acropolis of Scalu - and only the common lore of the town of Sharin. Vanderjack finds a mark among the wealthy of the Port of Izar and robs the man in his home. Making off with a jeweled turtle!!
Tasks and rooms are assigned to the passengers, and the Eclectic Medusa sails east! Gant, the dwarf bos’n, recognizes Deronil for his regiment and compliments him privately. They talk a little about the massacre of that same unit in battle.
It is an unremarkable first day of the voyage, but the second-night Deronil has unsolicited guests enter his room while he sleeps!
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Behind the screen
From the top, Rolemaster 2 is a tabletop role-playing game system that was first published by Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) in 1982. It is known for its complex rules system, which provides much customization and flexibility for players through a metric ass-ton of optional rules. Rolemaster 2 is known for its complex character creation journey, which allows players to create highly detailed characters with a large variety of skills, abilities, and talents. The game also features a detailed combat system, which considers various factors, such as weapon type, armor type, and environmental conditions.
"..an exercise in gaming archaeology" is how a player in this game series put it. I'm certain I didn't play Rolemaster as written back in the 80s. I have in this game two players with some experience with this game back in the olden times and two enthusiastic players. I’m here to answer the question: Is it all drunken nostalgia, or is there game here? YMMV in these modern times.
After this session, all players will likely revisted thier character construction maths. Some of our rules discussions were more than just parsing the text. Rolemaster has a ton of optional rules across several companion books and versions. A lot of talk is about how much do we use.
I kept this first session about the players getting comfortable interacting with each other --we have not played in this configuration before. I got us engaging the game's mechanics, mostly the static maneuvers table --a chart to measure the success or failure of actions. Unlike modern indie games, I didn't have a lot of NPCs or things to grab to work with. Some character backstory and the shared drive to visit the Oracle at Scalu - a contrivance I made up at the start of this game. Walking through a day in the large port city of Izar, following around the PCs, and asking how they will get to their destination got me a few things.
Hector, the fence, knows Vanderjack is leaving town.
Some wealthy guy got robbed of his jeweled turtle in his own home.
Elessar failed his research roll, but I gave him useful info anyways, but someone is aware of his searches. The town of Sharin has secrets!
Gant knows about The deathless regiment and might have fought on the other side.
Captain Ashton, is she a friend? Neutral? Adversary?
Vanderjack lost his brother to a cult.
I don't know what gets used, but they are hooks from actual play waiting to be developed further. And I don't even know what's at Scalu yet?! There's time, though; there's still almost 200 miles by land from Sharin to the acropolis --plenty of adventure!
I ended the session on a cliffhanger, really foreshadowing our first fight. This gives everyone a week to get up to speed on how their combat stuff works and which weapon tables they'll need to bookmark. I expect to walk through the process letting everyone explore fight options and mechanics. This first fight "is for free" Nothing to prove other than understand how it all flows and where it doesn't.
This is my two-step approach to new games or folks new to a roleplaying game. One session (or part) getting into the setting and characters and using the core resolution mechanics. One session (or part) engaging the combat mechanics. In the other sessions, we build on that.
Wishes and Stars
Stars for all the player’s unique and evocative backgrounds and talking to connect their characters together. It's easy, though, right? These folks have some decades of play under their belts. They are enthusiastic about this game.
My gamemaster wishlist? lol
There are 13 Black ships (not ghost ships) in Shadow World. I want to use one in play.
A fight with a Troll in a swamp.
Elessar uses some magic!
Gamemaster Prep for the next session:
Determine the distance and time to the acropolis from Sharin by the main road.
What systems or mechanics have we not used? Wrap an encounter/event around that. Magic!
Possible encounters along the way, we've got 6-8 sessions, so there is no need to "cut to" the acropolis. What trouble has followed them from the Port of Izar? See the above hooks!