Minions

One of the problems with being a GM, especially with Rolemaster, is keeping track of all the NPC in combat. Long ago in a galaxy far away I created some Excel spreadsheets that helped with this sort of thing, but these were sadly lost in PC migration back in the day of 3.5″ floppies. Back in “A road less travelled” I mentioned trying Rolemaster Minion to support me as a GM during combat. So this is a little review of how it has been going.

Initially, I have to say it wasn’t very efficient but this was mostly to do with linking routine OBs to weapon types. It is, after all, Rolemaster, and we are playing MERP but from the players’ point of view, they are not worried if it is a generic table or a weapon specific table. What they do notice is that I am not flipping through a series of tables to find the right weapon (or they are), and I am clearly not cross-referencing a table. I used to use a paper table I prepared with most of the potential protagonists the party would meet and then track on this. This has the potential for many errors when you are pushed including not applying penalties when you should and missing the point of unconsciousness. In Minion, there is none of this as it highlights stunned combatants and when they are incapacitated, and also applies all penalties (unless you switch it off).

In play, there have been a few issues, but I think we can put most of this down to discovering the best way to use the system. You do need to do some preparation work, NPCs and PCs need to all be entered into the program but this is no more than creating a combat recording table. There is a clone function, which is useful for henchmen and guards. The data can be stored through a copy and paste text for a restore. I would recommend keeping a copy of your PC and allies without opponents as this will speed up generating the combat tables. Opponents can be filtered into groups which helps for an adventure with multiple tactical encounters.

There is a facility to roll initiative and play strictly by this order, or as we do, you know which order events occur and then select combatants in each phase. Players can choose to let the auto roll do the work or use their dice roll. Quite frankly, no-one does the former. I mean why would you? Yet it does speed up the NPC combat. Initially, when I was getting the hang of it, I found myself entering the OBs and pulling down menus to select weapons until I got the hang of grabbing from the restore box.  There is also a slight slow down as you check boxes for modifiers for parry and position, but no more than the adjustments made for mental calculation. The benefit is stun and critical penalties are applied automatically. Crit rolls are handled automatically (again players can use their own) but you don’t need to add or subtract from the roll for the crit level.

In addition to the initiative rolling, there is also a dice roll function which can provide hidden rolls for all characters for perception, MM and use item (attunement). Which can be useful for those quick decisions about do they notice, avoid, or use in combat.

There have been a few glitches in play, mostly where I select the wrong character and have to cycle the correct combatants into order (still quicker than looking up results and recording on paper). I did have one occasion where the player and I disagreed on hits, but I’d had a round where the results didn’t appear to have been recorded but I suspect they went in so repeating the attack could have added on. We adjusted in the player’s favour.

Random encounters can cause problems because either you have to quickly enter the details of these or play off the tables. Keeping a backup table of potential encounters is possible but every time the players level up or change OB you will need to go an amend this table and although it appears to be a generic text code I haven’t yet managed to change or add in the raw code without making a mistake somewhere, so you would need to do this in Minion each time.

Overall, I’m much happier with this running the combat than the old pencil and paper method. We now talk more descriptively about the combatants rather than relying on the mechanics to describe the state of injury. “Pick is reeling in front of his foe, blood pouring from his nose like a punch drunk boxer” rather than “Pick is bleeding 2 hits/round with a broken nose and is stunned for 2 rounds”. Currently, we are still double-entry bookkeeping, with players tracking details of their characters, which as we have seen is useful at the moment, but I suspect in time all injuries will be more descriptive. After all, when you break your leg, you know it is probably broken and you are in excruciating pain, how many seconds before you are able to focus clearly is irrelevant you respond either by crumpling in a weeping mess or grit your teeth and try and move. Equally, when bleeding you don’t think “Oh I have 50 secs before I’m incapacitated”; you say “***@@, I’m bleeding badly, I’d better slap a bandage/tourniquet/plaster on that!”. So hopefully, the roleplay experience will be enhanced.

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Ambush in the wilderness

Limolas and Pick are resting in one of the local hostels in Caras Celairnen when they are approached by a small hobbit by the name of Billwise. The enthusiastic hobbit is interested in the pairs recent adventure and appears to be over friendly but as he is buying the drinks the pair humour him. While they are in conversation they are approached by a nervous scholar by the name of Mithparvandir who offers them a chance to find treasure if they will recover items for him from distant locations that would prove difficult for the scholar to enter. He is unwilling to specify what these might be as he is afraid of being overheard in such a place that promises to meet them later in the day at the Causeway gate and explain if they agree to help him.

As the spring sunshine fades and the warmth leaches from the air, the three adventurers wait for Mithparvandir by the gate. Late traffic is leaving the town, including a travelling knight and his retinue. Soon though these sights are forgotten as the Mithparvandir arrives with a sorry looking mule loaded with food for four weeks travel. He explains that he is afraid that other treasure hunters might reach the hidden locations in the site he has discovered. Also explaining that he is still deciphering some ancient texts that hint at a hidden treasure trove which requires some kind of key. Cautiously, the three accept the commission a little unsure of if the deserted mansion in the fallen realm of Cardolan will still contain treasure.

Before setting out, Pick decides to see if Dagaard will join them and, after a long conversation about gems after visiting Dagaard’s workshop, Dagaard agrees to join the party.

The journey is uneventful, apart from discovering that Billwise’s claim to be an excellent cook is false. At the end of the second day, the sun setting red and a storm closing in, the party notice the knight and his retinue ahead. Closing quickly in the hope of sharing a campsite for the night, Limolas spots a party of what looks like bandits preparing for an ambush. The adventurers hurry to the wooded defile, which although a good place to camp is also a good site for an ambush. Elf and dwarves task the newest member of the party to baggage duty, not trusting his size in battle and doubting his temperament and skill. Limolas, raced ahead and soon his sharp eyes spotted an old adversary amongst the bandits, Culwine. Unfortunately, the elf’s progress and those of his dwarven companions is noticed; a pair of bandits break off to intercept the adventurers.

Limolas, bow in hand, fires and although injuring one bandit, does nothing to halt their progress. He runs. The implacable dwarves continue their steady progress and soon battle is joined. Limolas continues to offer missile support. Doughty Dagaard dispatches his opponent quickly. Pick drops his weapon and is forced to use his shield in both offence and defence. Meanwhile, a poor pack mule enters the arena of combat as the remaining bandits join their companions in battle. So it is with some surprise that the experienced fighters observe Billwise appear behind one of the attackers and dispatch him with a single blow. Soon, only one bandit remains standing, but appears to be evading the blows of three opponents. Dagaard having dispatched Calwine charges on, sure that more combat will be found further into the valley. 

Finally, Billwise and Limolas manage to dispatch the remaining bandit, but Pick is beginning to look punch drunk. Leaving Pick to continue at his own pace, the elf and hobbit chase Dagaard into the valley. Rounding the corner they come upon the main site on Ambush. The knight has been felled as has most of his retinue, only Dagaard and the knight’s young squire continue the fight. A carriage, with smoke billowing out, is pulled up across the road. Within seconds, Dagaard and the squire collapse to the ground leaving Billwise to face three bandits alone. Fortunately, the hobbit uses his natural speed to stay out of trouble until reinforcements arrive, and although the foes prove troublesome to defeat, the remaining adventurers are victorious. 

Assessing the situation, the brave fighters ascertain that Dagaard, the knight and his retinue are merely unconscious. After time to recover they discover the tale of the ambush and that this was an attempt to assassinate the heir to the noble house of Noirin. Valanaque is the nephew of the current head of the house and the heir apparent to his aunt.

When sufficiently recovered, the enlarged party make their way to the family seat of the house Noirin. With great thanks, the band of heroes are rewarded by being granted the rights of retainers to the noble house. In return, Limolas and Pick share the discovered documents that they believe indicate there may be spies within Arthedain. With these revelations the Dame Noirin, orders the adventurers to accompany her to Bree, which she will pass through on the way to a meeting with the King at Amon Sul, and there to listen out for hints of potential plots.

Rewards Granted

Granted rights and responsibilities of a retainer of the House Noirin and supplied with a mount suitable for that position along with livery.

Missions/Quests Completed

Save Valanque from assassination

Character(s) interacted with

Valanque
Dagaard
Dame Noiren

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