Rolemaster isn't a bad system; it certainly doesn't deserve its reputation. But there are parts about it that I've always found inconsistent, one of them the handling of the professions. This was originally written for publication in the March 2002 edition of The Guild Companion, back before they started focusing on the D20 system - this and its companion piece, Rolemaster Magic Revisited, were my first published articles. I've revised this article slightly for its reproduction here at Twisted Confessions, but the ideas within remain fundamentally unchanged.
The Role of Magic in Rolemaster Professions
When taken down to their bare essentials, professions in Rolemaster are basically a collection of skill costs, which in turn define what a character can learn easily, and when he ca only learn with difficulty. In essence, a profession is not so much what a character has been trained to become, but rather is what a character can learn with ease. Profession isn't even the right name, honestly, but tradition is a strong force.
Unfortunately, this elegant interpretation breaks down when one comes across the spell-using professions: pures, semis, and hybrids. There is no way that their base lists can come naturally to the character (the self-trained Chaotic aside, but there are problems there as well), and base lists seem to be the result of training. Yet professions don't come equipped with ranks in any spells, as one would expect from selfsame training!
This is an unacceptable situation. Training should be in the realm of training packages and, to a lesser degree, Talents. Professions are the realm of skill aptitudes.
In the RMSS Essence Companion, the concept of the Training Package Spell List was introduced, and two new skill categories were added to take advantage of the change. Although the RMSS Mentalism Companion also addressed them, and there was a half-hearted attempt in the 1996 Annual to rework some other professions, the concept was not carried far enough. In my humble opinion, it should have been standardized in RMFRP.
Every single spell-using profession in Rolemaster can be reflected as a training package...even the Chaotic is little more than an Amateur Mage of the Arcane realm. After careful consideration, the path that needed to be taken was clear - remove the spell-using professions and replace them with training packages of equal or greater quantity. All Base Lists, then, would fall into the realm of Training Package lists.
This decision increases the accessibility of certain spells, as well as increasing the variety of spell users in the setting. The training package based on the Magent, for instance, while cheapest for the Thief or the Rogue, could be picked up by a Fighter, or an Outrider, or even a Sage. Similarly, a Bardic Sage and a Bardic Swashbuckler are both valid concepts, yet despite their spell lists will have a very different skill suite and outlook.
For those unaware of how things work, the Spells * Own Realm * Training Package List category costs 8/8/8 for all non-spell-users, and Spells * Other Realm * Training Package List costs 16/16 for all non-spell users. I have added Spells * Arcane * Training Package List at 12/12. (Note: Training Package Spell Lists are generally Restricted unless they match the character's background, usually via a relevant Training Package, at least during character creation.)
Although I prefer using Irregular Realms, either the Guild Companion's version, or my expanded modification (available soon), some might not want to put forth the time and effort necessary. Thus, what follows is a list of suggested professions, as well as where they can be found.
In the interests of parity, it is suggested that the DP costs for the Directed Spells, Power Awareness and Power Manipulation should be the same as the Layman, regardless of profession.
You may be wondering about Open and Closed Lists. After all, the old RMSS Magician could sling many more spells than were just available in his Base Lists, while the Magician TP would only give access to the Base Lists, and those at a cost of 8/8/8. Though it is my opinion that base lists often work well on their own, there is still room for the concept of the magic user who can cast most any kind of spell imaginable.
Talents provide the answer. These talents, below, are balanced against similar talents out of Character Law.
Yes, it is costly to be a full fledged spell user. Fifty talent points for Greater or Hybrid Archmage Abilities and Archetype, plus the development points for TPs to award base lists - not to mention the inestimable talent Power, or other Mystical talents (Eloquence, Magical Affinity, etc.). Being a semi-spell user is only slightly less costly - thirty talent points plus DPs and supporting talents. There is a greater flexibility here, but on first glance it looks like one becomes a spell user only at the expense of being anything else.
Too bad. That said, the fears above aren't exactly the case. There are a lot of flaws out there that would help someone reflect the spell users our of RMSS, as it was originally built. Flaws like Weapon Bane, Disavowed Weapons, Fear of Armor, all help to encourage a bookish attitude, and there are several physical flaws (like Wimp) that could push the envelope even further. With a proper and judicious use of such flaws, there is no reason why one can't make the stereotypical magician. On the other hand, this system makes it much easier to make the non-stereotypical spell user.
There are disadvantages to this if you're used to the basic RMSS structure. The new Archmage Abilities doesn't mimic the ability for many pure and semi spell users to trip over to the next Realm and learn some spells there for cheap. This doesn't bother me - it helps to highlight the differences between the three realms - but in the interests of completeness it should be made clear. A more practical worry might be the lack of Talents to affect the cost of Power Awareness, but the Layman's cost of 4/7 is pretty fair, in my opinion.
As for what training packages the professions should become, and what skills (besides spell lists) should be included, that should be world-dependent. What one world might teach a Mystic or a Magician isn't necessarily what all worlds would. Even one area to another may differ, both in terms of spell lists and skills.
In the original article, I said that if demand was strong, I'd make a set of generic-based training packages. Demand wasn't very strong, and it got put on the back burner. I still might do it one day.The three new professions will be here eventually