So I wake up this morning (as you do) and rpgblognetdom is alive with the news that the 4e Monk playtest is out there – and the power source isn’t Ki as expected, but Psionic.
My first fleeting reaction was “well, that’s screwed”, but that’s closely followed by “wait….. I’ve seen that somewhere before…..”.
That’s when I reach for my old, veritable, much loved and much used copy of Rolemaster Character Law & Campaign Law. This is a system we played the crap out of back in the day; for years it was our go-to fantasy system of choice. It had flexible, powerful character generation that was deeper and superior to anything on the planet, and Those Critical Tables we knew and loved almost by heart. It’s just a shame that later editions of the game turned Rolemaster into (IMHO) an unplayable mess. RMSS, I’m looking at you through hate-filled eyes. Oh yes I am.
But anyhow. Rolemaster posited that there were three power sources for Everything: Essence, Channeling and Mentalism. Alongside the “non” power source of Arms, each character class drew their abilities from one or more combinations or these. Sound familiar? Dude, Rolemaster was decades ahead of it’s time.
Essence was the power that surrounds everything; it’s the Tao, the Force, the Unified Field that links all things, and it’s the power source of Magicians, Illusionists and Alchemists. Channelers drew their powers from the Gods and Spirits; they’re the Clerics, Animists (kinda Druids) and Healers. Then there’s Mentalism – the power within, and the pure users are the Seers, Lay Healers and Mentalists.
Combine the sources to varying degrees and you get the Sorcerer (Essence & Channeling), Mystic (Essence & Mentalism) and Astrologer (Channeling & Mentalism) classes. Oh, how I see these echoes in 4e, I really do.
The pure Arms classes were Fighter, Thief, Rogue and Warrior Monk, though even those classes were encouraged to add a power source to their character sheet to denote their outlook and affiliation. Was your Fighter a god-fearing man, or selfish and introspective? Is your Rogue outward looking, or self-confident? The power source said more about who your character was than about where you got your blasty Powerz from.
Back to the Monk.
Combine the skill and Arms with one of the power sources and you get the Monk, Ranger and Bard classes. As per the rule books, the sources didn’t quite gel with our vision of any of the classes, and we (alongside everyone we knew who also played Rolemaster) switched ’em round.
Bards, for example were Hybrids of Mentalism and Arms. As Bards were supposed to be the archetypal dabblers in magicks, we switched that to Essence and Arms.
Rangers were just fine with Channeling and Arms. That synergised nicely with the Animist class and we dug the image of Rangers respecting the spirits of nature.
That left Monks, and we switched ’em from Essence and Arms (what were they thinking?) to…… tada! Mentalism and Arms, adept at using their inner Ki to fuel their awesome wushu goodness. As the prime stat for Mentalism is Self Discipline, it’s a perfect fit. I believe that one of the Rolemaster Companions (perhaps even the first) made this an Official Optional Rool. (UPDATE: It’s actually an optional rule right in the core book, page 70. I just checked.)
So there you go. 4th Edition is catching up with Rolemaster, slowly.
Psionic Monks? I like ’em.