Rolemaster reared it’s head again in a conversation with old buddies. One of the group used to love Rolemaster and the rest of group ranges from apathy to deep loathing.
To be fair, it has been more than twenty-five years since the only time I played Rolemaster. These are my hazy memories: it took at least two hours to create our characters. We only had time to play for maybe a half hour. And one of my friends lost his character in the first round of the only combat.
That was enough to put a lot of us of Rolemaster for life.
Now, I firmly believe that we have a biased view of Rolemaster and I don’t claim it’s a fair one. I also think that it wasn’t just the high fatality and brutality that alienated us but how muddy and unclear the experience was. It wasn’t just the horrible deaths but the fact that we didn’t really understand why we died horribly.
On the other hand, we had some good times playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Dark Sun setting where everything is trying to kill you. More than that, we all spent years playing Call of Cthulhu where you are a squishy as wet cardboard... wet cardboard going through a wood chipper.
It’s not the deadliness. It’s the ease and transparency of play.
A lot of things have changed in RPGs, RPG design and RPG philosophy. And one of them is accessibility. I think games have become easier to understand. I like that.
I keep a copy of the original version of Name of God in my travel bag. It is the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Rolemaster. The whole thing takes just up four double-sided cards and probably takes less than five minutes to create characters and get going. Now, it’s just designed as a one-shot (albeit with a lot of replay value) not a campaign. But it’s accessible and good for time management. And that’s what works for me right now.
If you are able to get enough game mastery of Rolemaster to get something out of it, you either have a lot more time than me or you are smarter than me. Good for you and I’m jealous.