Can someone please give an explanation on how a Cancel Essence or Cancel Channeling spell would work in the Rolemaster system?

By my reading, it seems like they are quite useless in a combat situation as you need to be aware that you are the target of a spell in order to cast and maintain it. Whilst you are maintaining the spell, you cannot cast any other spell or do any other offensive action.


3 Answers 3


Rolemaster RM/RM2/RMC

Cancel Essence/Channelling is for instant magic defense

Cancel Essence/Channelling seem pretty useless until you consider their most important factor; they are Instantaneous spells, this makes them class I spells and they require no preparation no matter what level you are.

Cancel Essence When a spell of the Essence realm is cast against the caster (of cancel Essence) the attack spell must first make a successful RR before the caster is forced to make a RR.

So this is a defensive spell to save the caster from being blasted; the first key combat stages in Rolemaster are:

  1. Spell Phase
    All combatants who will cast or prepare spells during the round must specify any pertinent information (spell type, target area, etc)
  2. Spell Results Phase
    All spells specified in the previous phase are resolved simultaneously unless an exception is indicated by the GM.

Here is an example combat where Wizard Bob faces his arch-rival Wizard Anti-Bob.

  1. Spell Phase
    Anti-Bob: I shall blast Bob with a shock bolt
    Bob: I shall cast Cancel Essence
  2. Spell Results Phase
    Anti-Bob: I blast Bob! Hahaha!
    Bob: My cancel essence spell spell is up! Make a RR to make your attack.
    Anti-Bob: <rolls and fails the RR> Curse you Wizard Bob!

This is the standard Rolemaster turn sequence from RMSS and RMC; this is of course complicated by the many different variants available through the Rolemaster Companions, but essentially all Instantaneous spells are reactionary spells (Like Bladeturn for example) that are there to save you from an attack or situation.

Note: In my games I used the standard AD&D style turn sequence: roll for initiative and each acts in turn. I let casters cast Instantaneous spells out of turn (using their spell up for that round) if they wished to react to something, it worked very well.

Rolemaster Standard System

The spells can still be used for instant defence - if you're a good enough caster.

All the spells on the "Dispelling Ways" (p16 Of Essence, p83 Spell Law) are no longer instantaneous, which means most of the spell list is now of dubious usefulness unless you're high enough level or take a penalty to cast them with zero round of preparation. For a same level spell this is a -55 to cast (spell casting modifications table T-4.6, p. 47 "Rolemaster fantasy Roleplaying) which isn't that bad a penalty if you're a good caster, long as you don't fail!)

"Cancel Essence" in Spell Wall (p14 Of Essence p81 Spell Law) and "Cancel Channeling" in Spell Defense (p14 Of Channelling) are all the same, so this isn't a typo/misprint it's an intended system change.

I can't say why ICE made this change, what I can say is that the change makes the spells pretty useless/more dangerous at low level as you'll have to fast-cast them. So I agree, as is, the spell is pretty pointless - I'd revert the change and make them instantaneous.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for your answer. Where is it specified that this spell is instantaneous? In the Essence Companion, under the Dispelling Ways list, Cancel Essence is listed as a Force Spell with no indication that it is instantaneous. Normally, instant spells have an asterisk on them. \$\endgroup\$
    – link64
    May 15, 2014 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes; it's a * to indicate a instantaneous spell. I was referring to Dispelling Ways in Spell Law; Are you using RMSS then? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    May 15, 2014 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Spell Law the list "Dispelling Ways" EVERY spell in the spell list is Instantaneous except for Unessence/Unchanneling/Unmentalism; I'll dig out my copy of Essence Companion and see what's changed - could be a misprint or something else. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    May 15, 2014 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm using Rolemaster FRP: Spell Law - Of Essence \$\endgroup\$
    – link64
    May 16, 2014 at 2:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Checked my books; updated for RMSS and RMC and split the answer for both \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    May 16, 2014 at 12:12

While I don't have the system (and not many others, judging by a month without an answer), I'm not sure which rules version this question relates to, and no excerpt/explanation of the spells and magic mechanics are given, I've found a house rule on page 8 of Jörg Jahnke's Rolemaster House-Rules relating to "Cancel Channeling spell of the Cleric" that sounds similar to your query:

The 'Cancel Channelling' spell of the Cleric has a duration of 1 min/lvl instead of, as listed in Spell Law, a duration of 'C'. (Background: The same spell also exist, also at 2nd level, on the Paladin Base Spell Lists and also on the Priest lists in Channelling Companion. In both cases it has a duration of 1 min/lvl. There is no obvious reason why it shouldn't have the same duration for the Cleric, especially as the spell seems quite useless if concentration is required.)

There might be an errata that could help, somewhere, or you could house rule to make the spell more useful like the above. Regarding the requirement of knowing you're the target of a spell in order to cast "cancel", it sounds like it fits the reactive-sounding nature of the spell; are there alternative spells that can be cast pre-emptively, to reduce success chance for a given type of spell? E.g. "I think I might be going into a room with water nymphs, I'll cast 'protection from water spells'"?

The main consensus I've noticed from my looking into this is that Rolemaster is the kind of old, complicated system where little niggles/minor broken things haven't been ironed out completely, even in later versions; some common sense/house ruling seems to be required to keep the system running smoothly.

Sorry if this isn't the kind of answer you were hoping for, but I don't know the system beyond freely available internet articles.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for that. We use rolemaster as the base, but have house-ruled a number of things to make things flow much easier. The world our campaign is set in is magic-lite and so we haven't really delved too deeply in to the magic rules. In regards to alternative spells to cast pre-emptively, yes there is, but they only affect a certain sub-class of spells (namely, elemental spells such as fire bolt, lightning bolt etc). Cancel Essence is supposed to be 'the spell' giving you an additional resistance roll against a spell. I will show this answer to my GM and see what he says. Thanks again =) \$\endgroup\$
    – link64
    Jan 16, 2014 at 21:50

In the RMSS, you are correct, the cancel spells are there to provide a 'turtling' defense against incoming spells, for as long as the caster concentrates. This is limited, but could be used by the character being 'bait' for a hostile spell caster. As usual with Rolemaster, there are many alternatives: Protection and Resistance spells, which give bonuses to RR's, or the Spell Reins Closed Essence list which provides Spell Hold, which is instantaneous, and has a similar effect, with some interesting potential consequences. If that makes Spell Reins look overpowered compared with Dispelling Ways, I would argue that the point of Dispelling ways is the 'Dispel' series of spells, and the Cancel's are just there as a warm-up.


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