Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arms law and Claw Law

Arms Law describes itself as the first "system" to be bolted onto the Rolemaster role playing game.
It gives you rules for combat and...well that it really. 72 pages of combat related rules and data, nothing else!

The text is laid out in a tiny font spread across two columns.

The book starts with some term definitions that will be used in the following rules, nothing too in depth here. What does "Defensive Bonus" or "Orientation Roll" mean, that sort of thing. Then it starts to get meaty. The 9 phase Battle Round Sequence is presented and explained quite clearly.

The thing about Arms Law is that it is a detailed system. It takes some time explaining all of the various things that would effect a characters defensive capabilities , including the 20 differing levels of armour your character can be wearing! Then it moves onto describe a much shorter list of various offensive capabilities, such as "Expertise", "Magic Items" and "Experience".

In the next section it describes how you resolve combat attacks follows that with how to manoeuvre characters within the combat scenario. I really do like the fact that under this system you can attempt to leap from the horse into melee, and a die result indicates you achieve 30% of your task. Interpretation can be fun!

The next two pages cover all of the various bonuses and penalties that can get applied during combat. Bonuses for flank, read attacks, penalties for being wounded, bonuses due to spells, and penalties for using to swords. It's all here.

Then starts the insane craziness (and the beautiful beating heart) of the arms law system. The Charts!

A chart for fumbling your weapon.
A chart for manoeuvring in combat.
Critical wound charts for each of the following: Slashing, Puncturing, Crushing, Large creatures,  Super Large creatures.
Separate attack charts for : Dagger, Falchion, Hand Axe, Main Gauche, Scimitar, Rapier, Broadsword, Short Sword, Bare Fist, Club, War Hammer, Mace, Morning star, Whip, Bola, Composite Bow, Heavy Cross Bow,  Light Crossbow, Long Bow, Short Bow, Sling, Battle Axe, Flail, War Mattock, Quarterstaff, Two-Hand Sword, Javelin, Lance, Pole Arm, Spear.

That's a lot of tables and it's only one per page. These tables are in the smallest printed font I have ever seen, and they need to be to fit on one page. 22 columns, and rows for all of the possible values between 28 and 150!

But we're not done yet.

We have tables for Beak/Pincher, Bite, Claw/Talon, Grapple/Grasp/Envelop, Swallow(!), Horn/Tusk, Ram/Butt/Bash, Stinger, Tiny Animals, Trample/Stomp.

So that covers the Claw-Law part of the title. Phew, I was getting worried. But wait!  There's more!

Tables for: Martial Arts striking, Martial Arts sweeps & throws and one more for Fall/Crush damage.

Strangely separated from the other critical charts we have a few more critical wound charts: Grappling, Martial Arts Strike, Martial Arts Throws, Tiny Animals, Unbalancing

Let me elaborate on all of the critical wound charts. These are where the real fun comes in when using this system.  The results of a critical wound range from "A" the lightest to "E" the most dire, and each has a range from 1-100. Thus a character might receive an "E" Slash critical. This means you turn to the Slash Critical table, roll a D100 and cross reference E and the die roll.  For example if you inflict an "E" Slash on your enemy and roll 66 for the critical, the table relates the following.

"Sever foes arm. +12 hits. Foe expires in 12 rounds, drops immediately, +10% to your next swing."

Everyone of these critical charts is stuffed full of these beauties. This is the bit that people remember fondly.

Following all of these charts are some additional rules, for adapting historical weapons, explanations of how to interpret animal attacks ( and a few more charts to help you out). A special section of rules for martial arts giving differences for the various major schools and techniques.

That's it. Frankly its enough. There is so much "data" in this book it truly boggles the mind. It's a worthy read. These rules are supposed to be independent of the Rolemaster system and adaptable to any fantasy role playing game. I'm not so sure that was true back in 1984, and it would be hard to mash this into modern systems. Having said that, I do think tacking those great critical wound charts onto a D20 system might well be fun!  But beware using the critical fumble charts..

Hand Arms Fumble result of 100: "Bad taste and poor execution. You attempt to maim yourself. Roll a "D" slash critical against yourself."

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