I recently got into a debate with the four other members of my RP group over the use of specialist materials in skills. The basis behind the debate was whether special materials actually benefit learned skills directly (RoleMaster) or should they simply be ignored.

The GM stated that only as a bonus to fighting skills would any special material bonuses be applied. For instance, if Thanos forges himself a mithril sword then he benefits from the +20 mithril bonus. However, if Thanos forged himself a set of tools from mithril to work steel swords no bonus would be imparted from the mithril to the sword during the use of the smithing skill. Further, the GM stated that only if the items were imbued with bonuses to the skills as an alchemical/magical process would they be allowed (i.e. the tools are imbued with a bonus to smithing, e.g. +20).

The reasoning behind this was to stop one of our group exploiting the bonus, preventing him from creating better tools to create better tools, ad infinitum.

Everyone seemed to take the GM's stance except for me, however. I argued (technically defending the powergamer ... no - it's not me!) that the metal should indeed provide a bonus to the user's skill if the object had been crafted specifically for that purpose. As an analogy I stated that: if one of two professional cyclists who normally used carbon fibre racing bikes were given a one made from iron of exactly the same design and structure, then his performance at that skill would be directly affected and would be slowed by the weight.

I haven't found any hard and fast rules regarding this in the books, but I may have missed them. In RoleMaster do items created with exotic, special or enhanced materials augment the skill of the user of the finished product?

In the example I gave above for the racing bike, the carbon fibre used to make up the bicycle does directly affect the skill of the user.

It could also be argued that the use of special materials to craft crafting tools (e.g. a smith's hammer) could provide benefits as they are less likely to mark or fracture due to stress (of the harder material, e.g. mithril hitting the softer material, e.g. steel), thus preventing the marring of the final product (though this statement is more of a discussion point).

  • @Paul do you think my answer is still valid with the edit? Otherwise I'll delete it. With the system-agnostic tag gone I don't think it is, but since it's your question I'll let you be the judge. – Erik Jun 10 '15 at 14:36
  • @SevenSidedDie - so now with the edit, some (all?) of the answers are invalid. What do we do about that? – Chuck Dee Jun 10 '15 at 17:33
  • @wraith808 Comment, downvote, etc. to get their attention, and possibly flag for deletion if that fails. (Such are the dangers and learning-experience opportunities of innocently answering questions that aren't well-asked yet.) – SevenSidedDie Jun 10 '15 at 17:36
  • (I've deleted the egregiously-invalid answer about D&D 3.5e, but the rest are probably best left to the ministrations of the community.) – SevenSidedDie Jun 10 '15 at 17:40
  • @Erik: it was an interesting comparison to see how the two different systems operate, but has been removed by SevenSidedDie, anyway. Thanks Erik. – Paul Jun 11 '15 at 8:42
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The answer to the question at hand rests in Treasure Companion - Item #5811P (hereafter referred to as TC). You have to construct the item to be based on skill bonus, rather than weapon or defense bonus, which does involve more effort, and is specific to the item- rather than just automatic.

First, let us refer to TC44

Objects — Objects are any items that are not wands, rods, staves, rune paper, or potions in the sense outlined above. They include weapons, armor, spell bonus items, rings, cloaks, boots, etc.

If they are created out of superior materials (assuming iron as a normal, non-bonus material), weapons, armor, and other items can have bonuses that are non-magical. In this case, creating a base item need not be accompanied by enchantment or imbedding a spell.

If weapons and armor are enchanted to get a magical bonus, then the user can elect to use either the nonmagical bonus (due to material) or the magical bonus (but not both).

So, this gives us a base that it is a practice to enchant tools other than weapons and armor, and that the material does indeed give a bonus.

This is also reinforced by TC57 - BASIC ITEM PRICE TABLE 10.1. In that table it talks about General Items of various bonuses... this is the area that we are interested in. But what about specific references?

For that, we go to TC42, quoted below:

8.4.4 GENERAL ITEMS

General items add a bonus to skills (though not OB or DB, or they would be classified as a weapon or armor), add to the characters abilities (RRs, Hit Points, etc.), or add to the number of spells a character can cast (adders and multipliers).

Their advantages are that one does not need an Attunement maneuver (or command word) to use their abilities; they can be made out of any material (so can be very durable if the Alchemist wishes); and they allow Alchemists to create a great number of effects not directly reproducible with imbedded spells. In addition, an Attunement maneuver is not required to gain the bonus from the item (though the user may not realize the bonuse he is gaining). Remember that an Attunement maneuver would be needed to ascertain the nature of the item.

Their disadvantages are that they are very time consuming to produce. GMs may wish to limit just how their bonuses can be applied (e.g., a GM may wish to only allow bonuses to specific skills rather than Skill Categories).

So taking these quotes and references, we can get to the answer to your question:

Other than weapons, armor, staves, wands, rods, rune paper, and potions, there is a class of General Items that add a bonus to skills- specifically not OB or DB. They can be created out of superior materials (assuming iron as a normal, non-bonus material), which confers a bonus that is non-magical.

The basic rules are laid out well in wraith808s answer. But to sum up:

  • Items may provide skill bonuses
  • Item bonuses can be derived from quality/material and/or magical enchantments

I'd like to add a point on the bonus stacking you mentioned...

Infinite skill bonus loop? (Skyrim anyone?)

Now, I see the problem you brought up in the case of smithing tools, as these are basically the only tools which you create using tools of the same kind, thus theoretically allowing for infinite improvement of tools.

What prevents this infinite recursion to become a problem in reality are in my opinon the following points:

  • As far as I remember (sorry, it's been a while) the complexity, cost and time needed to create items that give you any kind of bonus increases exponentially with the bonus they will give you. So creating a set of +5 tools might be feasible, +10 tools will be hard, anything above requires a lot of skill, tons of time and quasi-magical material to work with (making it less and less feasible for players).

  • Furthermore II remember there to be certain classes/levels of equipment (i.e. +5/+10/+15/...) which had their own significance: +5 is just well crafted, +10 is extremely well crafted, where for example +30 will not be possible without magical influence and very very rare materials. The class/bonus of the item you create does not depend directly from how high your skill is, but from the materials and skills used to create it.

How our group would handle your case

  • We'd allow the player to create a mithril tool set that gives him a bonus to smithing.
  • The tools would give at max a bonus equivalent to mithril weapons (i.e. +20), but it could be less if he somehow doesn't get the tool creation checks perfectly.
  • The tools would allow him to create other things more easily (weapons, more tools), but the maximum bonus of these other things would be the same as if he had created them with a normal set of iron tools.
  • You should probably summarise those rules at the beginning, while acknowledging the answer if you like. – doppelgreener Jun 11 '15 at 5:40
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    Hehe, guess as a software engineer I'm too accustomed to the DRY principle... ;) I did what you suggested. – fgysin Jun 11 '15 at 6:44
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    Me too, but here it creates a conundrum where we can't upvote a good answer with lots of useful info because it isn't an answer. Good conundrum to avoid. – doppelgreener Jun 11 '15 at 6:45
  • The problem with the crafting of the mithril tool set is the chicken and egg scenario; if your current tool set aren't good enough to craft a harder material, how do you go about it? ... But that's another question for another post! ;o) – Paul Jun 11 '15 at 8:36
  • @Paul - that problem is taken care of also in treasure companion. There are spells that alchemists use to make materials of superior quality (mithril, laen, eog, etc) workable. – Chuck Dee Jun 11 '15 at 12:57

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