In 1995 Rolemaster became the RMSS, Rolemaster Standard System. The biggest deal about this revision of the game, as far as the skill subsystem goes, was to make the skill categories meaningful in a mechanical sense. For the simplicity of explanation, in the earlier version of the game, you would get a +5 bonus per rank you had developed in a skill. (Again, I am keeping it simple. There were skills that gave you +1 per rank, variable bonuses per rank, etc... but most of them were of the +5/rank variety - up until diminishing returns kicked in at rank 10... jeesh!)
Anyway - RMSS brought the skill bonus per rank down to +3, AND!, allowed the development of SKILL CATREGORY ranks (a +2 bonus/rank to all skills in that category).
OK - so now development strategies are in place for both broad and specific areas - a warrior can develop skill with all one handed edged weapons in general and also focus on a short sword, rapier, whatever.
I liked this solution. Of course, I wasn't really playing at that time, just reading... So this is a big division point among RM players. Some people prefer the old way. Admittedly, each has it's merits and flaws, and everybody is gonna like what they like, etc.
So when I came back into gaming (2006? 2007, somewhere in there), I picked up the then current incarnation of Rolemaster, and was pleasantly surprised to find this change. I got a couple of my friends to agree to play (gamers both, but no exposure to Rolemaster. As Mr. Burns would say from behind his bony fingers cathedralled...)I'm afraid that I'm going to have to go on a petty tangent here. After examining the beautiful and effective art shown above (Monty, that is), I have to admit that the cover art for the School of Hard Knocks is WAY up on my list of least favorite RPG art. The cover art for most of the recent RMFRP (Rolemaster Fantasy Role Playing) ain't my thing, but this book in particular... ugh. I hope I have not offended the legions of appreciators who are certainly out there. It's actually the one game book cover that a non-gamer friend of mine saw and just started laughing at, and I had to join in. Anyway, big deal Kate - lots of good books have dumb covers!
The School of Hard Knocks was published for the RMFRP system. Specific skill and categorical development are ensconced. Another level of organization is introduced - Skill Groups (sets of associated skill categories). Groups cannot have ranks developed, but other modifications can be applied to the skill categories in a skill group.
(Fighters get +10 to the Armor Group. This means that the 3 skill categories in the Armor Group (light, medium, and heavy) get that +10.)
At this point there are:
12 Skill Groups,
55 Skill categories (note: not all categories are members of groups, or are groups of one...), and
242 Skills at an absolute bare minimum
Excessive? Insane perhaps? This game has shown a pair simultaneously evolving trends applied to the same subject: simplify by adding complexity. It very well could melt brains.
So, OK, I still haven't got to the book itself. I'll post a pic of it now and write about the book itself later because I have to work in the morning. It's the expression on the front of the head of the lion-faced guy holding a stick. Also his choice of attire (Mos Eisley Public Elementary #4)... enjoy!