Grading the Rolemaster/Spacemaster System

How do you feel about the Rolemaster/Spacemaster System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 11 13.1%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 21 25.0%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 18 21.4%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 13 15.5%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 2 2.4%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 19 22.6%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%


Have you played or run the Rolemaster/Spacemaster system? Did you play one of its offshoots such as MERP or Cyberspace? If so, what did you think of it?

Rolemaster and Spacemaster by Iron Crown Enterprises are complex and intricate RPGs that cover the fantasy and sci-fi genres, respectively. The games use percentile dice as their base, and while perhaps best known for their very colourful critical tables*, the games are filled with tables throughout, from character creation to action resolution to attack matrixes (one per category of weapon and with an unusual way of handling/modelling armour) to charts galore.

Rolemaster was first introduced in 1980, Spacemaster in 1985, and both had several revisions over the years (including under new owners after the original ICE went bankrupt in the early 2000s). The base systems were also used in simplified forms for other ICE games, including Middle Earth Role Playing (playing in the Lord of the Rings) and Cyberspace (a cyberpunk game). Also, for Spacemaster, two tactical hex-based combat games were released: Star Strike and Armored Assault.

This post is a continuation (with permission/blessing) of @CleverNickName's “Grade the…” series! As they noted in the previous threads, “the D20 System is the undeniable favorite for tabletop RPGs today, but there are plenty of options out there for those who don't like D20 or might be looking for something different. My goal in these little surveys is to highlight the different systems and options available to tabletop fans...not bash on anyone's favorites.”

So! If you’ve played in one of the “Masters”, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Which one(s) did you play, and what did you like or dislike about it? If you haven’t played, was there something that dissuaded you from giving it a try?

And as before, just for fun the responses will be used to give the system a “grade.” :)

* Type E Impact Critical 100: Blast annihilates foe’s entire skeleton. Foe is reduced to a gelatinous pulp. Try a spatula.

Grade: C+
Of those who voted, 100% have heard of it and 78% have played it.
Of those who have played it: 17% love it, 32% like it, 28% are lukewarm, 20% dislike it, and 3% hate it.

Previous entries:
Grading the Cypher System
Grading the Pathfinder 2E (D20) System
Grading the Savage Worlds System
Grading the Fate/Fate Core System
Grading the Modiphius 2d20 System
Grading the GURPS System
Grading the Powered by the Apocalypse System
Grading the D6 System
Grading the Hero System
Grading the Storyteller System
Grading the Megaversal/Palladium System
Grading the Basic Role-Playing System
Grading the SAGA System
Grading the Warhammer 40K RPG System
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Front Range Warlock
There are so many variations of the system, even just within the Rolemaster family. Of the Rolemaster variants, I am quite fond of RMX (Rolemaster Express, now out of print). I also quite like Cyberspace (my second favorite cyberpunk setting/system after GDW's 2300) and MERP second edition (that said, I like MERP mostly for its ridiculously high quality setting supplements). If forced to roll all of those under one heading, I'd say that "It's pretty good".


For myself, I have not played Rolemaster, though I almost ran some Spacemaster (as a Robotech campaign) back in the early 90’s. Or I might have run one session before something interrupted the campaign, but if I did I don’t remember enough about it so I voted that I have not played it.

Which is unfortunate. Spacemaster, especially coupled with Star Strike and Armored Assault, did intrigue me plenty, and I owned Cyberspace as well. The rules seemed crunchy the way I liked it back then, and the artwork and vehicle/etc design were very much to my tastes. It’s also the game that introduced me to cross-grain movement on a hex board, many ways of looking at firing arcs and deflection arcs, new ways of granularizing terrain types, and the way that weapon/armour/hits/criticals intersected each other was also interesting. SS/AA covered a lot of different types of vehicles and tech, which made it “easy” to convert over the various mecha and vehicles from the wide array over the Robotech series (along with some Rifts stuff I stuffed in as part of the campaign idea).

And I do so much still want to run a Death Valley Free Prison campaign sometime... :D


I almost love it… The most table-time I have ever had with a campaign was under Rolemaster 2ed. We played at least weekly, all day in a weekend, for about 18 months, maybe two years. We started of at about 6th level to have some survivability but played all the way to about 60th level IIRC. Definitely higher than 50th level.

It’s a pretty cool system, and not massively complex if you are careful with the optional rules you are using. It’s just table-heavy and with modern resources like quick scans of tables everyone can have their own copy for the table rather than sharing the book.

The main thing which stop me loving it is the strong adventuring premise baked in to the spell lists - stuff that would be valuable to the everyday populace but is not very adventure focussed can be very high level. Now maybe that is totally legit (and at the end of the day is just a design choice on some spell lists) and it does help avoid easy-access to magic destroying the medieval feel of games. But it holds me back from giving it a top score.


I’ll run or play it again at some point in the future, for sure!


Trust the Fungus
Huge, huge fan. My first failed attempt to break into the industry was as a second-party developer for ICE. My tastes have changed and I'm less attracted to that level of crunch... but I'll always have a warm place in my heart for RMFRP, Privateers, and every flavor of HARP.


I ran it every week for my group for about 10 years through the 90s and early 00s. We always enjoyed playing it. It was the lethality that eventually made us move on to another system, we had too many PC lives cut short through bad luck on the crit tables.

One of players had so many characters die over a few months he created a character named after me, he thought I wouldn't kill a PC with my name!


A suffusion of yellow
"Quick whats 63+97-44, got it? now consult 3 tables to get your AK6 result - awesome! you manage to hit the goblin, but strain your achilles tendon and will limp for a day - so much fun!"

Rolemaster had some good ideas and I really like the spell system, but as everything was resolved with a % skill roll and consulting so many tables you needed a post graduate mathematics degree to cope.

That said I often find myself inspired by its rules, indeed 3e was kinda a much more simplified form which is what got me back to playing DnD
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After a bit of Fighting Fantasy, some rather poor games I cobbled together myself with no real clue what I was doing, and tiny bit of red-box BECMI D&D, MERP was the first game I started to run for real. I eventually moved on to RM2 and then RMSS. Between the three, they were my go to game for the first 12-or-so years of gaming.

Eventually, I got around to writing up my own version, which I expected to be a fairly even mix of RM2 and RMSS, but ended up being mostly a streamlined RMSS. I think the only thing I really took from RM2 was the potential generation method.

Overall, I feel RMSS is pretty solid, but there are too many skills and categories. Once you condense things down (a single Artistic category, one Combat Manoeuvres category that includes Combat Manoevures, Martials Arts Combat Manoeuvres and Special Attacks, etc it runs a lot simpler.

That said, I can still see the appeal of the much simpler RM2 skill system.

I never used Exhaustion, unless characters wanted to use the top movement paces.

I didn't use ESF (in RM2) or the full range of Static Spell casting modifiers in RMSS, until my recentish, rebuilt RM campaign, where everyone had excel character sheets, and the mods could be easily calculated with a few radio buttons. The game is better with those options, but they're massively unwieldy to track on pen and paper.

Overall, I still feel it's an extremely solid game, and my players took to it very well, and had a lot of fun over an 18 - 24 month campaign, starting at 4th and finishing somewhere around 12th or 14th level.

I'm old enough that these games are nostalgic childhood memories, but I can't honestly say I like the systems very much. The settings OTOH, those are pretty great, and my goodness, the artwork (especially the SpaceMaster module covers) was enough to get Kid Me's money.

While the RPG engine leaves me cold, their Silent Death board/minis game (still available through Metal Express) is arguably the best starfighter combat rules set ever made, X-Wing being the only one that rivals it IMO. Lovely miniatures too, and quite inexpensive by 2024 standards - my personal gallery is here.

Some folks swear by ICE's old Bladestorm fantasy miniatures rules as well, although I confess I don't quite see the appeal mechanically. Good setting for skirmish gaming though, with a unique explanation for why little warbands are the norm rather than big armies.

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