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Tabletop Game / Role Master

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Rolemaster is a fantasy Role-Playing Game created in 1980 by Iron Crown Enterprises. Like Dungeons & Dragons, it is a game system with classes, races, levels and experience points (no Character Alignments, however). Unlike D&D, it uses many more detailed tables (one for each of the several dozen weapons) and presented lots of optional rules from the beginning. There are dozens of magic-using classes who have hundreds of spell lists available with more than 2,000 spells altogether. The sheer number of charts and weapons and spells involved led to the affectionate (or sometimes not-so-affectionate) nicknames of "Rulemaster", "Chartmaster" and "Rollmaster". The game has been through several editions, the most recent being Rolemaster United in 2012.

The game Middle-Earth Role Playing by the same publisher uses a streamlined version of the Rolemaster rules. Another, more recent game, HARP (High Adventure Role Playing), is essentially a stripped-down version of the same rule system.

This game provides examples of:

  • Armor Is Useless: Due to open-ended rolls and the critical hit system, armor, while not useless, doesn't always do much good.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: The game has three types of Combat Languages in its Arms Companion supplement. The Class I version was short, simple commands that could be shouted and easily understood in the noise of combat, such as "Charge!", "Flank right!" and "Fall back!".
  • Character Level: Standard for games of its time period.
  • Class and Level System: Ditto.
  • Critical Failure:
    • You are capable of failing in many specific ways. The game's critical hit and critical fumble charts feature some legendary results, including one that involves "tripping over an imaginary deceased turtle". (This is of course humour indicating that the character just blundered big time with zero style.) The fumble chart is as large as any of the Critical Hit charts.
    • When rolling for one weapon category's fumble's effect, if you get a high enough roll (99 or 100 if memory serves) there's a 50% chance that the enemy bursts into laughter and is helpless for an X amount of rounds (the other 50% consists of you spraining your groin), giving you a free attack for the next round, turning a major gaffe into an advantage.
    • The M.E.R.P (Middle Earth Role Playing) game was a variation of Role Master, and has some interesting ones for critical failures covering everything from simply inconvenient, to embarrassing, to downright deadly, depending on actions taken and roll made on fumble chart. These could include dropping or breaking your weapon or failing to move, causing a critical strike to yourself, biting off your own tongue and swallowing it, tripping up and landing in an embarrassing position, shooting yourself in the foot, or falling and crushing your own skull and dying, and my personal favourite, for those fighting from a mount: “you drive the point of your weapon into the ground, pole vault 30 feet, and take a 'C' crush critical to yourself”.
    • Nearly anything you can do can kill you if you roll bad enough. A Killer GM will make players roll to tie their shoes.
    "Your fall turns into a dive. You crush your skull and die."
  • Critical Hit: Combats are often ended by critical hits rather than mere hit point loss. Critical hits, in fact, are the rule rather than the exception.
    • The game has pages upon pages of critical hit tables. It is famous for them. Overcoming your opponent in a battle in Rolemaster isn't so much about draining their hit points but landing criticals. Each attack consists of an attack roll (adding your skill bonus for the weapon you're using and subtracting the enemy's defensive bonus), and if the weapon's attack table indicates that you get a critical hit you roll for the critical (the severity of which depends on whether your hit resulted in A, B, C, D or E criticals) and see how well you succeed in that critical, the results of which range anywhere from small wounds to smashed skulls, so the criticals play a... erm, critical role in resolving a combat.
    • The critical success tables have such legendary entries as "Target's bones are vaporized, target is reduced to a liquid paste. Try a ladle.". In a later Companion, both aspects combined led to Fatigue criticals, which if you played the rules straight meant you could kill yourself by what amounted to explosive decompression through exhaustion. Or hunger.
    • Whereas in most games a critical hit happens once every 10-20 attacks or so, and results in a simple increase in inflicted damage, each attack type in Rolemaster has an entire table for determining the effect of a critical hit, at 5 or more different levels of crit severity. A hit that doesn't result in a crit is little more effective than a miss.
    "Strike through ear destroys brain. The unfortunate lummox dies instantly, and any ear wax is removed."
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: The skill system. Every ten points in a skill up to +50 gives you +5. The next ten give you +2, up to +70. Then you get +1, then +1/2. Magic items and stat bonuses, on the other hand, are linear, so +10 is +10 whether you're adding to 10, 100 or 1000.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: More a case of Almost Anything CAN Kill You - with open ended attack rolls and instant death criticals, it was entirely possible for your level twenty hero in magical full plate armour to get his head torn off by a kitten.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Or in this case, mithril-gold-silver-bronze-copper-tin-iron standard. The game has a long line of metal coinage, all with decimal exchange rates. 10 iron pieces are worth 1 tin piece, 10 tin pieces = 1 copper piece, 10 copper pieces = 1 bronze piece, 10 bronze pieces = 1 silver piece, 10 silver pieces = 1 gold piece, and 1000 gold pieces = 1 mithril piece. One has to wonder why they didn't just melt down the copper and tin pieces, mix them together, and sell them as bronze pieces; there's a rant about tin pieces and bronze pieces here.
  • Hit Points: Called "concussion hits". When your hit points reach 0, you're unconscious — it takes a lot more damage to die. The main form of character injury comes in the effects of various critical hits, such as loss of limbs, stunning, instant killing, a whole variety of bleed effects, and other "crunchy bits".
  • Kryptonite Factor: Some editions have included detailed elemental rules. One section is metals that have elemental properties. Striking an elemental creature (which can include dragons) with a weapon of opposite elemental properties automatically converts all critical hits to slaying criticals, which, on the normal critical scale of 1 to 5, are about a 9.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: The game is jokingly called "Rulemonster" and "Rollmaster" among the gaming community because of this, and because it has a vast number of tables to roll on for things like damage from an attack —- one for each weapon, for starters. A great deal of these are optional, though they also add to realism.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Supplement Character Law. A character with the Sadist mental flaw enjoys causing physical and/or mental pain to others and is compelled to do so whenever possible. The flaw is described as being evil, and therefore not suitable for a good or heroic character. The Gamemaster is specifically authorized to forbid players from choosing this flaw for their characters.
  • Non-Combat EXP: Iron Crown Enterprises' games (Rolemaster, Space Master, Cyberspace, etc.) often gave experience points for non-combat actions, such as coming up with useful ideas, performing movement maneuvers (e.g. running), traveling (5 XP per kilometer), using spells or psionic powers, performing research and building or repairing items.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: The Black Reaper, an extremely powerful demon that is commonly used to guard items or places. Once disturbed, it will never stop pursuing the offender until he or she is dead. It is immortal and doesn't need food or air, and is never bored. When it follows its soon-to-be victim, it will just walk underwater through oceans or use its magic axe to tunnel through all but the hardest material.
  • Pit Trap (with Spikes of Doom at the bottom): In the Arms Companion.
  • Spell Levels: Spells were arranged by level within spell lists. In order to cast a spell, a character's skill rank for that spell's spell list had to be greater than or equal to the spell's level.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase. In the Arms Companion.

The Shadow World campaign setting has the following tropes:

  • Adjective Animal Alehouse
    • Cyclops Vale. The mining town of Coronan has the Blue Dragon Inn.
    • Quellbourne: Land of the Silver Mist. The Raging Threk Inn can be found in the town of Kelfour's Landing.
    • Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. The Red Eagle Inn in the town of Borbinak.
    • Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. The Restless Khabak Inn in the nome (province) of Meyaat in the country of Gethrya.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Supplement Norek: Intrigue in a City-State of Jaiman. A powerful crystal inside a mine causes radiation poisoning in the miners. They think it's a plague and seal off the mine to protect the outside world. After the effects get worse, the miners seal themselves in their rooms to await death. One of the miners leaves a diary of the events that the PCs can find.
  • Auto Doc
    • Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. The Bed of Suspension is a magical version that appears in a tomb in the Halls of the Mountain King. It is an intelligent coffin of ruby red stone that can diagnose the injuries of anyone put in it and cast healing spells to cure their ills.
    • Jaiman: Land of Twilight adventure "The Tomb of Andraax". The Medical Center has "medbeds": automated surgical/medical facilities that activate when a body is placed in them. They can cure almost injury except severe brain damage or loss of a major body part.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The Shards of Viour rip out the hearts of their victims and eat them while they're still beating.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. A tribe of cannibals help to guard the Elephant Graveyard in the Chimen jungle in G'thal by eating explorers who are searching for it.
  • Common Tongue: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. Trade Common (AKA Imperial Common) is spoken across the Central Basin.
  • Elephant Graveyard: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. For 6,000 years elephants have lain down to die at a sacred graveyard in the Chimen jungle in G'thal. A lone explorer found it and created a map, which makes its way to the PCs. They'll have to contend with hungry natives, hostile slavers and the great White Elephants that guard it.
  • Fictional Colour: When creatures of the Void cast spells, it creates a rainbow of impossible colors.
  • Fungus Humongous: Sky Giants of the Brass Stair. The Hall of the Forest Wyrm in an underground cavern has fungi more than 8 feet high.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. Under the Halls of the Mountain King, on a beach next to an underground river, awaits a giant crab.
  • Giant Spider: Jaiman: Land of Twilight. The H'taan is a huge spider that digs holes like a trap door spider and lies in ambush, paralyzing victims with its venom. They grow up to thirty feet or more across.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Jaiman: Land of Twilight. Eating the fruit of the Siene bush cleanses the body of any intoxicant (such as alcohol) in seconds and can cure hangovers, thus making it a rare example of both types of this trope.
  • Ley Line: Essence Flows follow paths around the planet Kulthea and can be tapped for magical power by touching them.
  • Lightning Gun: The underground insectoid creatures known as Krylites have devices that can throw lightning.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Jaiman: Land of Twilight, adventure "Cult of the Third Moon". The Priestess and Sisters (acolytes) of the title cult have remained young for 150 years by Vampiric Draining the Life Energy from sacrificial victims. If the Priestess' amulet is removed she will suffer Rapid Aging, become her true age and die. If the amulet is destroyed, so will the Sisters.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Demons of the Burning Night. The accumulated aging as a result of wearing the Helm of Kadaena only takes effect when it is removed.
  • Only Shop in Town: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates.
    • Wolda's General Store in the town of Borbinak fills the needs of adventurers and the local farmers and serves the wholesale needs of local inns and taverns.
    • The small village of Ryne has a single general store.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. Centaurs are Imperial citizens, live in buildings and are farmers and shepherds.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The Elder Swamp in Demons of the Burning Night and the Deadmar Bog in Nomads of the Nine Nations both have quicksand that can suck down adventurers to their deaths.
  • Rainbow Motif
    • Quellbourne: Land of the Silver Mist. In the ruined city of Quellburn is the Citadel of Wizards. The Mentalists' Rectangle building has a meditation chamber with floor tiles set in in rings tinted the colors of the rainbow, from red to purple (violet).
    • Jaiman: Land of Twilight. When something (beings, spells and magic items) is reflected in the Mirror of Auras, the color of the reflection reveals the specific nature of that thing's Essaence (sic). Red = Essence, Orange = Essence/Channeling, Yellow = Channeling/Mentalism, Green = Channeling, Blue = Mentalism, Violet = Mentalism/Essence. Yes, once again indigo is forgotten.
    • Gethaena. The NPC character Myrlaenis has a spell called Smoke of Hues. The caster can cause the smoke from a fire to change to one of the rainbow colors, each of which has a different spell effect. Red = Rituals I, orange = Longing, yellow = Regrets, green = Dreams of Remorse, blue = Claws of Agony, and purple (violet) = Talons of Peace. Of course, it's once again poor indigo that's forgotten.
  • Rapid Aging
    • Supplement Demons of the Burning Night. While wearing the Helm of Kadaena the wearer accumulates 10 years of aging during each combat, but the Helm prevents the aging from taking effect. If the Helm is ever removed all of the aging immediately takes effect.
    • Supplement Jaiman: Land of Twilight, adventure "Cult of the Third Moon". The Priestess and Sisters (acolytes) of the title cult have remained young for 150 years by Vampiric Draining the Life Energy from sacrificial victims. If the Priestess' amulet is removed she will suffer this trope, become her true age and die. If the amulet is destroyed, so will the Sisters.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning
    • The campaign setting: Wraiths, Wild Hunt hounds, Zephyr Hound - Fire (glowing red), Demons of the Sixth Pale (glowing red), the Dragonlord Oran Jatar, Black Unicorns (glowing red), the Heralds of Night (glowing red) and the Dark Gods Orgiana (glowing red), Z'taar (luminous red), and Scalar (luminous red).
    • Quellbourne: Land of the Silver Mist. Trolls have deep-set red eyes.
    • Demons of the Burning Night. The following monsters/opponents have red eyes: Flete Demons, the greater evoker demon Teroglustrod The Red Gate and the half-demon General Mortilas.
    • Journey to the Magic Isle. The lich Balizaar, the deadly and evil enemy of the University of Magical Arts, has glowing red eyes.
    • Jaiman: Land of Twilight. Black trolls (AKA War trolls) are dangerous, fearsome and cruel man-eaters that have evil red eyes.
  • Scary Scorpions
    • Master Atlas. The Gemsting scorpion is 4-6 feet long and injects a respiratory poison.
    • Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. Giant scorpions in Gethrya inject a poison that causes delirium for 1-20 hours.
  • Speak Friend and Enter: Supplement Emer. A door made of frosted green laen inside the Ahrenthrok will open if the Iruaric word "Iken" ("open") is spoken.
  • That Was the Last Entry: Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates adventure "Terror at Fang Rock''. A lighthouse keeper is murdered by smugglers. The last entry in his log book says that he hears noises outside (the smugglers digging a tunnel) and that he's going to investigate.
  • Vampiric Draining: Jaiman: Land of Twilight, adventure "Cult of the Third Moon". The Priestess of the title cult performs a human sacrifice ceremony at midnight in order to drain the Life Energy of the victim and maintain her immortality.
  • Weakened by the Light
    • Demons of the Burning Night. Anyone wearing the Helm of Kadaena is at half resistance rolls in sunlight.
    • Jaiman: Land of Twilight. Stone trolls are turned to stone by sunlight.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve
    • Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. A Class V Wraith will attack the PCs each night at midnight until they are killed or it is.
    • Jaiman: Land of Twilight
      • Adventure "Cult of the Third Moon". The Priestess of the title cult performs a human sacrifice ceremony at midnight. She does so in order to drain the Life Energy of the victim and maintain her immortality.
      • Adventure "Pride of the Gryphon". In the Back Story, the burial ceremonies of the King Zor took place in the Catacombs of Ur at midnight.
  • Wizarding School
    • Journey to the Magic Isle. The title island holds the University of Magic Arts, where students can learn a wide variety of magical techniques.
    • Star Crown Empire and the Seas of Fate. The nation of Fydon Fey is the home of the Great Colleges of Sorcery. They're rather important because the country's class system is based on magical and intellectual ability.
    • Nomads of the Nine Nations. In all the Jan, Balaan and Shoneb Empire, the only place to study magic is the Academy of Dar-e'sen in Ghagian. The most powerful archmages, the Senjamade, live, study and teach there.
  • Wolf Man: Werewolves can take the form of a humanoid with wolf features.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: The Soulslayers of Murlis can drain and eat their victims' souls by holding onto them.

The Spacemaster system and its Privateers campaign setting have the following tropes:

  • Alcubierre Drive: Privateers campaign setting. The Quantum Drive uses quantum fields to contract space in front of the ship and dilate space behind it, allowing the ship to effectively exceed the speed of light.
  • Ammunition Backpack: Privateer campaign setting. Backpack energy cells can hold 35,000 energy units and are often used to power large weapons.
  • Escape Pod: Privateers campaign setting. Life pods are small, five person ships that only have maneuvering thrusters and are usable only if in orbit. They have heat shields and parachutes for atmospheric re-entry.
  • Flynning: Privateers campaign setting. The Swashbuckling skill allows the user to perform elaborate maneuvers with his melee weapon, including flourishes and feats of weapon control (such as recovering a dropped weapon).
  • Intrinsic Vow: Privateers campaign setting. The Telepathy Psychic skill had several powers with this restriction.
    • Behavioral Trigger: If the psychic tries to get the victim to do something that is totally out of character (such as betraying everything they care about) the Task Difficulty is Sheer Folly (-50% to chance of success).
    • Suggestion: If the suggested action is completely alien to the target's personality, they will not follow it.
  • Klingon Promotion: In the Jeronan Empire military, lower level personnel fight duels (sometimes to the death) to rise in rank.
  • Scary Scorpions: Supplement Aliens & Artifacts has Ice Scorpions, which are found in Arctic ecosystems and are 3 meters long.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Turlog is an Ice Planet and Tiernarock and Hasockoth are Farm Planets.

Alternative Title(s): HARP