Mentalist Monks FTW

So I wake up this morning (as you do) and rpgblognetdom is alive with the news that the 4e Monk playtest is out there – and the power source isn’t Ki as expected, but Psionic.

My first fleeting reaction was “well, that’s screwed”, but that’s closely followed by “wait….. I’ve seen that somewhere before…..”.

That’s when I reach for my old, veritable, much loved and much used copy of Rolemaster Character Law & Campaign Law. This is a system we played the crap out of back in the day; for years it was our go-to fantasy system of choice. It had flexible, powerful character generation that was deeper and superior to anything on the planet, and Those Critical Tables we knew and loved almost by heart. It’s just a shame that later editions of the game turned Rolemaster into (IMHO) an unplayable mess. RMSS, I’m looking at you through hate-filled eyes. Oh yes I am.

But anyhow. Rolemaster posited that there were three power sources for Everything: Essence, Channeling and Mentalism. Alongside the “non” power source of Arms, each character class drew their abilities from one or more combinations or these. Sound familiar? Dude, Rolemaster was decades ahead of it’s time.

Essence was the power that surrounds everything; it’s the Tao, the Force, the Unified Field that links all things, and it’s the power source of Magicians, Illusionists and Alchemists. Channelers drew their powers from the Gods and Spirits; they’re the Clerics, Animists (kinda Druids) and Healers. Then there’s Mentalism – the power within, and the pure users are the Seers, Lay Healers and Mentalists.

Combine the sources to varying degrees and you get the Sorcerer (Essence & Channeling), Mystic (Essence & Mentalism) and Astrologer (Channeling & Mentalism) classes. Oh, how I see these echoes in 4e, I really do.

The pure Arms classes were Fighter, Thief, Rogue and Warrior Monk, though even those classes were encouraged to add a power source to their character sheet to denote their outlook and affiliation. Was your Fighter a god-fearing man, or selfish and introspective? Is your Rogue outward looking, or self-confident? The power source said more about who your character was than about where you got your blasty Powerz from.

Back to the Monk.

Combine the skill and Arms with one of the power sources and you get the Monk, Ranger and Bard classes. As per the rule books, the sources didn’t quite gel with our vision of any of the classes, and we (alongside everyone we knew who also played Rolemaster) switched ’em round.

Bards, for example were Hybrids of Mentalism and Arms. As Bards were supposed to be the archetypal dabblers in magicks, we switched that to Essence and Arms.

Rangers were just fine with Channeling and Arms. That synergised nicely with the Animist class and we dug the image of Rangers respecting the spirits of nature.

That left Monks, and we switched ’em from Essence and Arms (what were they thinking?) to…… tada! Mentalism and Arms, adept at using their inner Ki to fuel their awesome wushu goodness. As the prime stat for Mentalism is Self Discipline, it’s a perfect fit. I believe that one of the Rolemaster Companions (perhaps even the first) made this an Official Optional Rool. (UPDATE: It’s actually an optional rule right in the core book, page 70. I just checked.)

So there you go. 4th Edition is catching up with Rolemaster, slowly.

Psionic Monks? I like ’em.

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8 Responses

  1. kelvingreen says:

    Wasn’t one of the 4e developers involved with the Rolemaster line at some point? I’m sure I’ve seen people discussing 4e’s borrowing from the older system in that context before.

    kelvingreens last blog post..Everything is Wrong

  2. Greywulf says:

    Not sure about the 4e guys, but Monte Cook cut his designing teeth working for Iron Crown on the Rolemaster line back in the day.

  3. Christa says:

    Just to make sure this is not just my cache that is repeating what it already seen :p

  4. Greywulf says:

    …..and we’re back! Squeeeeee!!!!!

  5. Christa says:

    That’s coz I changed that support ticket to EMERGENCY for ya ;) Otherwise it would’ve taken at least a day or two :p

  6. Elton says:

    hmmmm . . . Back to Rolemaster classic or RMFRP. I’m happy with either of those. :)

    Eltons last blog post..HATE . . . What is it?

  7. satyre says:

    Not convinced about going back to Rolemaster. Nice enough game but I’ve always had this nagging doubt about any system that lets starting characters ride a horse safely 25% of the time and which has criticals for depression.

    Psionics were always problematic for D&D. 2e got it best but needed Dark Sun to make it fly. When DS jumped the shark with it’s 2nd ed, the system was quietly relegated. 3e didn’t help. I’m hoping 4e will keep it simple.

    I am glad we have the monk back though. Like the bard, it was one of those classes that helped define D&D through it’s eccentricity compared with more orthodox Western classes.

    And a new power source – this is the 4e secret cash cow. Souls/incarnum being the one after psionics? And lets see… Aberration/Far Realm (primordial as a working title) after that?

    There’s another two years of books right there for you…

    satyres last blog post..dark heresy: the slaughterman cometh

  8. ManoDogs says:

    RM was decades ahead of its time, but I find it amusing how often the horse riding crits are mentioned because that literally happened to a PC in one of our games – pretty much right out of the gates! He had to leap a stream bed or something mundane which required a simple skill check and he flubbed it badly. Several open-ended rolls later, the PC would have cracked his skull and died instantly from the fall, had we not spent the requisite 190734 hours creating the frigging character in the first place; I GM-atically decided his horse stopped-short and refused to jump the thing – so he still failed, we just didn’t have to wait another week to actually play the game!

    Still, while RM is probably the best FRP system out there (the first two editions, at least), I went with 1st/2nd-Ed. AD&D when we recently decided to start a fantasy campaign. It wasn’t just that it was easier, but that was the primary reason.

    I have heard absolutely nothing I consider good about 4e; literally everything I’ve read about it clearly indicate it was written according to rules and concepts popular in MMORPGs right now. It will only serve to further fragment the hobby, which is all D&D has done to it since it started suing companies to stave-off bankruptcy in the 1990s.

    ManoDogss last blog post..Spidey Gets Caught in a Dark Reign

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