On Rolemaster, part five

Last time we left our hero, Heliana was facing off against a sergeant sent by her uncle to make sure she didn’t survive another day. We are taking a whistle stop tour of classic Rolemaster to showcase this wonderful system. Hold on tight!

It’s fair to say the odds aren’t in Heliana’s favour. The sergeant is a 3rd level fighter, while Heliana is a mere 1st level Ranger (pdf character sheet here). He has more hit points, is better armoured, has a shield and a broadsword against Heliana’s rapier. On the upside, he also has an arrow in his hip and is bleeding from the wound (2hp/round). And Heliana has the jump on him as he was stunned a round and spent another round getting off his horse.

Combat rounds in Rolemaster are a little different to those in D&D. With Dungeons & Dragons, each PC/Monster/NPC take all of their actions in initiative order from highest to lowest. This means a PC with a high initiative can move, cast a spell, shoot, fight or whatever before their opponent even gets to act.

Not so with Rolemaster.

In this game, it’s the actions you take that dictate the order. All spells are cast and take effect first, followed by missile attacks then movement, and finally melee. Every participant acts in each phase (if they are able and want to), meaning magic and missile attacks always act before close combat. Who goes first in each phase is dictated by their Quickness and speed of their weapon or spell. In comparison to D&D’s I-go-you-go system, Rolemaster is much more fluid and cinematic.

Heliana is fast, much faster then an old sergeant with an arrow stuck in his leg. She is Quickness 97, whereas the sergeant is…. not. She easily closes the space before he even has chance to react.

Heliana’s Offensive Bonus with her Rapier is +16, and her Defensive Bonus is 25, her Armour type is 6 (her leather riding coat) and her current hit points are 28.

In comparison, the sergeant’s OB with his broadsword is +30 with a DB of 30 and his AT is 16 (!!!). His current hit points are down to 24, and still losing 2hp/round. With hindsight, Heliana regrets not just keeping her distance and pumping him with arrows, but fortune favours the bold. Sometimes.

Combat is deadly in Rolemaster, and it’s usually a wise idea to take some of your Offensive Bonus and add it to your Defensive Bonus. This lowers your combat roll, but DB deducts from your opponent’s attack roll so fighting tactically increases your chance of survive.

Heliana doesn’t have time for that nonsense though. In a protracted fight the more experienced sergeant will always win. She has to end this, and fast.

She attacks, rolling open-ended d100 and adding +16 less the sergeant’s DB of 30, for a total of 69, giving a total of 3 hits. That’s…. um….. barely a bruise. Heliana’s Rapier glances across his Hauberk as the sergeant grins wickedly. He is at 21 hits and it’s his turn.

He rolls d100 + 30, less Heliana’s DB of 25. He rolls an unmodified 04 (almost a fumble!!) for a meagre total of 9. Heliana lithely dances out of the way, laughing with relief.

She rolls, and gets 00! At it’s an open-ended roll, she rolls again and adds, modified by her OB and the sergeant’s DB. The total is 155. That’s off the chart, and yields 9 more hits (down to 12 hits remaining) and more importantly, an E Puncture critical. One d100 roll later and…

Chest wound. Foes takes 4 hits per round. +5 hits. Foes fights at -10. Foe is stunned and unable to parry next round.

The sergeant is on 7 hits and is losing 7 hits a round. He is going to die, and knows it.

The sergeant falls back, dropping his sword and shield and kneeling on the ground. “Yield!” he cries hoarsely. Blood pours from his chest where the rapier had slid easily through the chain links. He wasn’t long for this world.


“Why does my uncle want me dead? And what was he looking for in the ashes?”


“A box my lady, A golden box. That’s all I know, I swear.” the sergeant’s words bubbled as blood dripped from his lips with every breath, “He sent me to kill you. I had to bring back your right hand. Please, help me…..”


Heliana turned and walked steadily back to the forest as the sergeant’s body dropped onto the floor, staining the earth.

Till next time!


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