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I am just reading the latest edition of Rolemaster, called Rolemaster Unified and its really cool, copyright 2022. There are concerns however about one new inclusion, called 'Talents' overpowering a key new inclusion about a major diversity of humanoid races.

Background

There are refinements to the existing RM second edition system, but the big inclusion is a multitude of humanoid races as PCs and NPCs. These are mostly humanoid chimeras with lions, dogs, wolves, birds, frogs, and reptiles (two types), which each have powerful innate abilities. Each race has a specific name, which at present I haven't memorized.

New section: Talents

The second major new section are 'Talents' which allow the purchase of some of the key innate abilities of a given race regardless of the race of the PC buying them, an example is given below. Talents totally change levelling up.

Example

An example of what I mean by 'overpowered' is the innate ability 'frenzy' which permits what was the old Berserka activity: +1 on size, giving 1.5 hits, +1 criticals, never goes unconscious until dead, capably of attacking foe and party. Its not expensive (20 dp with 60 dp per level). This is also the innate ability of wolf-human hybrid race, except they have difficulty controlling it, i.e. the idea is there is always a hidden cost/disadvantage. (dp = development points obtained initially and on levelling up.)

Essentially a human could purchase 'frenzy' (base dp 50) be left with 30 dp and use it without the penalty of the wolf-human hybrid: this race, like many races in RM Unified, has low self discipline and thus has difficulty controlling 'frenzy'. Basically the manic wolf-human can start attacking the party ... at which point the party has to make a choice do they really want a wolf-human hybrid in their group? How are they going to move forward? A frenzied human in contrast is a less of a danger, because they've a better chance of snapping out of it. In other words, whats the point in becoming a wolf-human? If there isn't any point in a PC becoming this race, then the rich humanoid diversity drops out of the game.

There are other overpowered issues, e.g. ambidextrous is an innate ability of a given subgroup of orcs, its also a 'Talent' that can be bought and would be really powerful with two weapon-combo (combination) because there's no penalty.

Is this a shared concern and how is the DM/GM dealing with overpowered 'Talents' in general?


I'm defining "overpowered" here as the extreme ease of any race (such as humans) to easily acquire an innate ability from a completely different (mostly) humanoid race via a new feature called 'Talents', e.g. at level 1. In particular, the ability to 'buy the strengths' and 'avoid the associated weaknesses'. So one race (particularly humans) can end up being more powerful then the race for which that ability is innate.

Assumption

I assume a key facet of the revised game is the diversity and contribution of a large range of humanoids to the new world that I would like to be reflected in the party.


Does Rolemaster Unified promote a diverse range of humanoids and value their innate abilities, rather than having them 'bought out' at little cost?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm truly not familiar with this game, but I'm not sure I understand your question. Is your primary question about whether an optimized party can consist of a large range of humanoids? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 22, 2023 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch basically, yes. I want to promote a diverse range of humanoids within the party and for the party to value their innate abilities, particularly for PCs, but also NPCs. At present there is a risk they could simply be 'bought out' at little cost. I'm happy to clarify the question further if its required. \$\endgroup\$
    – user81856
    May 22, 2023 at 18:29

2 Answers 2

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Goal My goal is to promote PCs being a range of "races"/species, at present there's a risk of everyone being human (Background).

Background First level humans have by far the most development points of any non-orc race. They start with 50 development points (dp), fair elves for example have zero. However @OwenReynolds has a point beyond 1st level, because after this level the level bonus is uniform (60 dp regardless of "race"/species).

Proposal I've a reasonable solution which is to use 'race' or species similarities between character types as a restriction criteria. I propose the acquisition of Talents is based on "race"/species similarity between the "race"/species wanting to acquire the talent/innate ability and the "race"/species which has that ability. The information used to describe which "races"/species are sufficiently similar is based on three sources.

  1. RM Unified, for example Gnomes associate with halflings (hobbits).
  2. Linnean taxonomy, e.g. dogs are effectively domesticated wolves.
  3. LofR.

Examples Thus, for specific examples:

  • a dog-human can acquire the 'frenzy' abilities of a wolf-human, but a human and other "races"/species cannot;
  • Orc races can acquire ambidextrous (orc race ability), but humans for example cannot;
  • An elvish race can acquire the abilities of other elvish races and occasionally humans can too.

Designations The similarity groups I would designate for this potential interchange of abilities are as follows.

  • Wolf-humans and dog-humans.
  • Lion-humans and deer-humans (there are no cat-humans).
  • Lizard-humans and snake-humans.
  • Gnomes, halflings, blue-skinned gnomes (Nycamerith) and Gnolls.
  • Hobgoblins, goblins (separate from Orcs) and Kobolds (sort of goblin).
  • Humans and half-elves.
  • Elves and half-elves.
  • Humans and very small giants (between 7 to 8' tall)
  • Elvish races
  • Orcish races
  • Human races
  • Occasionally frog-humans with reptile/snake-humans
  • Occasionally humans and elves.
  • Occasionally hawk-humans with other non-orc/goblin/halfling, non-gnome, non-reptilian, non-amphibian humans or humanoids (see below).

The following two "races"/species are isolated from others: ape-humans (Sea-krals) because they are socially isolated being pirates; trolls which Tolkien described as socially isolated as well.

Hawk-humans in RM Unified socially integrate very well, albeit genetically birds and frogs are the singular most genetically isolated groups in the list.

Mechanism The Talent could be acquired by genetic similarities (dogs are similar to wolves), social interactions, which groups associate together resulting in learned behaviour, or a combination of the two. I'm a big fan of nurture.


Footnote RM Unified attempts to limit Talents through a "Racial list". This is restricted for the creation of new "races". It is limited however. So for example, Vard Orcs have four-arms and are ambidextrous. A "Talent" of four-arms is within this restricted list (thankfully)*. However the "Talent" of being ambidextrous is outside this list and it's cheap. In any RM version being ambidextrous is a big advantage in combat, being ambidextrous with four-arms :-O ... This is the basic pattern, innate "racial" "Talents" occur both inside and outside the restricted list.

*, a PC orc would be extremely difficult to integrate into a standard party, because RM Unified describes orc groups as having poor team discipline, little cohesion and serious infighting is common.

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The number of talents you might buy are limited by number and cost.

A player of a human PC will never be able to buy enough talents to even come close to the talents available in a race package. For example, the "average" campaign can buy only 10 points in talents, while the default power level "Superior" only allows for 20 pts in talents.

See table 4-0 on page 114 for more on the cost limits on talent purchases.

The upshot here is - no human can ever purchase the Frenzy talent unless the GM sets the Campaign Power Level to "Epic", the highest tier available. And then they get no more talents.

Furthermore, a player may buy off a racial flaw using DP - and there is no cost limit there. Or, if they like, a player may improve a starting racial talent. These face point buy limitations, but they often start off better than a human can even purchase.

See Section 4. Talents, pg. 114 for more on this. And Section 12.1 for more on power levels.

That's not to say that people will not drift into playing only humans, but the situation is not as bad as originally posed.

If the situation is still not finding a nice balance, then make a rule that humans must buy a talent (or even skills) based off their culture with the extra points they get.

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