Using Rolemaster Critical Tables to Describe Weapon & Spell Damage

I started playing tabletop games with Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP), and then Rolemaster in times of yore. Both systems use d100 tables to describe the results of critical hits. When I picked back up the dungeon mastering mantle with D&D 5E, where damage is meted out in mere hit points, I cracked open that Rolemaster red box and pulled out the goods.

Those crit tables are always on my mind when I run games. It's probably unhealthy. The tables are full of colorful, brutal, realistic, and hilarious descriptions of weapon attacks, divided up by damage type (in Arms Law). There are incredible descriptions of spell crits for various damage types (heat, electricity, cold) in Spell Law.  Those are especially useful for when "Foe freezes solid and then shatters into thousands of pieces after falling down 20 feet behind impact point."

As my players will attest, I try to describe the realistic impact of each weapon and spell attack. It helps to keep folks engaged (IRL) in battle (at least I like to think). Also, it leads to horrific, gore-splattered battlefields.  One player called it "artistic gore." A few weeks ago, for the first time ever, a player actually asked me to tone down the violence.  I accomodated, of course, and managed to swallow my intial reaction of "what do you think happens when you hit a person as hard as you can with an axe?"  This caused me to reflect on the nature of graphic violence in TTRPGs, and how differently folks approach the topic (an article for another day).

Recently, I indulged myself and bought the PDF versions of Rolemaster Classic Arms Law & Spell Law from Why?  I wanted to make the crit tables a part of my DM screen. I'll probably never play Rolemaster again, but its brutality will always live on in my heart.

“Strike to foe’s head destroys brain and makes life difficult for the poor fool. Foe expires in a heap - immediately.”
“Heat vaporizes foe’s mid-section, destroys foe’s clothing, armor, and all items they carry. Foe is cut in half and dies.”
“Foe’s nervous system acts as a superconductor. Foe’s sad, instant death provides all with a fine light show."


  1. I remember it took 3 hours to make my one and only Rolemaster character at my friend's house in Round Rock, TX. I needed a calculator and a pad of graph paper, but my character was a lot of fun to put together. Too bad I was too tired to play him that night.

  2. I can attest that, as a player, the author's descriptions during play are perfect! And vivid. And very, very elaborate. Did I mention "vivid"?


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