The Priest-King of Shade

Back in 2013 I submitted to I.C.E., and they accepted, my manuscript for “Priest-King of Shade”. There was no formal agreement, but at the time, product output was slow, RMU was just getting rolling and Terry was open to third party submissions. Nicholas gave the go-ahead and both he and Terry gave it a few editorial passes early on. Then things slowed down. For years.

Over the ensuing years, I continued to refine and add content, edit my own work and found various artists and others to help with floorplans and layouts. I continued to submit my new updated versions until I was told not to work on it anymore until a complete editorial pass was finished. 

That was several years ago. In a few weeks I’m turning 49 and staring down the barrel of 50! I have 3 more comprehensive modules nearing completion plus all the other RMBlog stuff I’ve been working on. Terry has announced he doesn’t have time to edit my project and I haven’t heard that anyone else will take on editing duties. The product needs artwork, layout, floorplans and probably another 20 pages to really polish things up. While I was really looking forward to having an “official” published ICE/SW module, I have no interest in waiting forever. My brother Matt (Vroomfogle) did all the work on the Shadow World Players Guide and was the lead design on RMU, so I’ll let that be our family’s official testament to our long standing commitment to I.C.E.

With that said, I’m attaching an early version of Priest-King in PDF format. It’s rough, the charts don’t quite fit on the page, these floorplans are shite and it just needs a lot of work. However, I have complete versions of all charts in excel, clarifications and can provide them if you email me. Since I never had a formal contract with ICE and I’m offering this for free I can’t imagine anyone will care.  Let’s call this PK.v.2. My most recent version has several more adventures and is hitting 180 pages. With professional artwork, layouts and newer material there is still a publishable product here. 

If you haven’t followed my blogs here, Priest-King is actually Chapter 2 in the middle of my extended “The Grand Campaign”. Chapter 3, The Empire of the Black Dragon segues into one of the Dragonlords storylines and injects the PC’s into the world spanning battle with the Jerak Ahrenrath and the Eyes. Heady stuff in my campaign!!

So while this is rough, it’s also free. How about this as an idea? If you want to contribute to this, help with one of the floorplans, or insert an idea etc, let me know. We can crowdsource this a bit and make it even better. I’m open to that and can focus on all my other projects!

HARP Read Through – Talents & Other Options

The heroes of stories and legends often have extraordinary
abilities , unique magical powers or secret, special
knowledge. Collectively, these are referred to as Talents.
Talents are purchased with Development Points.
Certain Talents may only be purchased during character
creation, like Blood Talents, while others may be learned
any time a character goes up a level. Players are urged to
provide the Gamemaster (GM) with plausible reasons for
allowing a character to purchase the selected Talent. This
process has been simplified by the Talent entries containing
only the descriptions of the effects of the Talent. The player
should work with the GM to find a way of describing how
the talent works so that it fits within the GM’s setting.

HARP is based around Talents. Talents define the player races and they are available to buy during character creation and leveling up. There are 48 talents in the core book, I guess there are more lurking elsewhere but I haven’t looked (Edit: I just looked in Folkways and there are another 22 talents in that book, there could be even more in other books!). Most are just fit and forget, you buy it once and that is that. There is one talent listed with two tiers and two talents with three tiers but most are just a single purchase.

The average cost seems to be in the region of 20DP. Starting characters get 100DPs so talents are definitely affordable but the trade off is that points spent on talents cannot be spent on skills.

Here are three talents, that seem rather typical the first gives a flat +10 bonus across all the related skills, the second gives a +25 to a single skill and the last has no mechanical effect in terms of pluses and minuses but certainly helps with the adventuring life!

The character has a gift for healing, and receives a +10 bonus on all his healing & medical skills.
Cost: 15
Quiet Stride
The character is naturally light on his feet, giving him a bonus of +25 to Stalking maneuvers.
Cost: 20
Reduced Sleep Requirement
The character requires less sleep than normal. Four hours of sleep are the equivalent of eight hours of sleep for him.
Cost: 15

Special Items

In addition to skills and talents characters can buy special items and special backgrounds, like nobility or law enforcement backgrounds, with DPs. A +5 bonus item costs 5DP and a +1 spell adder costs 10DP for example. I quite like the idea of all the original RM Background options being purchased with DPs.

Multiple Professions

The option to take an additional profession is bought as a 20pt Talent.

I have copied the example from the book to explain this a bit more.

Example: Felzan is a 3rd level Mage. Upon reaching 4th level Felzan decides to learn something about combat and become a Fighter. Felzan’s player pays for the Additional Profession Talent and Felzan is now a Mage(3)/Fighter (1), which is a 4th level character overall. Once Felzan reaches 5th level he may increase his Mage level, increase his Fighter level or add yet another profession. Felzan elects to increase his fighter level making him a Mage(3)/Fighter(2).

So when you advance a specific profession you spend your DPs using that professions costs and the professional special bonuses that happen every x levels only happen when that specific profession hits the right level. So this is the Fighters special bonus paragraph from earlier…

Beginning at first level, and then every fifth level thereafter (5th, 10th, etc.), Fighters gain a +10 bonus to any Combat skill of their choice. No weapon skill can have more than a +30 bonus from this ability. Beginning at first level, and then every third level thereafter (3rd, 6th, etc.), Fighters also gain a +5 bonus to any one skill from the Athletic or Physical categories. No skill may have greater than a +25 bonus from this ability.

So it is these bonuses that advance only when the character hits those levels in that specific profession.

This is of course one of the big differences between HARP and Rolemaster in all versions.

Fate Points

So Fate Points are a core rule in HARP. Each character starts with 3 Fate Points, they can have as many as 5 points but no more.

The points may be used as listed below.

Fate Points may only be used for certain effects, as listed below.
For 1 Fate Point, the player may add a special modifier of +50 to any one roll that he makes for his character.
For 2 Fate Points, the player may add a special modifier of +100 to any one roll that he makes for his character.
For 1 Fate Point, the player may add a special modifier of +50 to his Defensive Bonus for one round.
For 2 Fate Points, the player may add a special modifier of +100 to his Defensive Bonus for one round.
For 1 Fate Point, the player may have 25 subtracted from any one critical his character receives.
For 2 Fate Points, the player may have 50 subtracted from any one critical his character receives.

The GM can award fate points for great role play or they can be bought at leveling up at one Fate Point for 5DP.

Finally in this chapter are the training packages that have already been covered.

The next chapter is equipping your character. I am not going to cover this as the prices are almost identical to Rolemaster. The only stand out is that armour needs to be bought by the piece and ideally fitted to the character for full effect. This will come up again later.

In my next HARP post we cover Adventuring which means that all the skill resolution, resistance rolls and spell casting is covered. That will be much more interesting to us than lists of equipment prices!

RMU House Rule #1 Stats

So here are the three uses I have for Stats…

  1. Stat Bonuses, this is the normal use for stats in RM. I want to keep the RMU magnitude and the addition of stat bonuses for finding the total bonus for skills.
  2. Fixed Body Dev, I will be using the Con Stat plus 1/2 SD plus Base Hits (From RMU Character Law).
  3. Unskilled Tests, I use the whole stat for unskilled tests. So if you want to know if your character can remember some random fact, for example, you would roll d100 OE and add your ME stat. 101+ to succeed. This means I can apply the full range of difficulty factors for these single stat unskilled tests.

So this means that I want and need a stat on the 1-100 scale. It also means that having a stat of 100 is better than having a stat of 98 even if the bonus is the same.

I also want point buy in some description.

I quite like Hurin’s suggestion of 3d10 – 15 has a lot of merit but that isn’t point buy. My objection to dice is simply the situation where a player that rolls well will forever out perform a character that rolls poorly.

RMU has a point buy option where all stats start at 50 and you get 10 points to spread over the 10 stats. You also get the option to buy down a one stat to have more to spend.

So how about…

  1. All stat bonuses start at +/-0
  2. All characters get 3 +1s they can share between the ten stats
  3. A stat can be bought down so taking a -1 on one stat can add a +1 to a different stat.
  4. No starting stat can have a bonus of more than +15
  5. Once all bonuses and penalties have been assigned Temporary States equal 50 + (Bonus (or penalty) * 3)

So with this mechanism I keep my ‘no dice’ preference. There is no need to have any tables of bonuses.

There is an effective cap at 95 so the stats are not truly d100 but the 100 stat is impossible as +16 equates to a 98 and +17 is 101 which doesn’t exist in RMU.

The 3 +1s equate to 9 points of stat and RMU gives 10 stat points for free so that is pretty close.

I like to share my house rules as I think many eyes make problem spotting easier. We could add in the Hurin option of 3d10 – 15 as a diced option. the dice option gives a range of -12 to +15 which is skewed slightly in the characters favour but I think that is a good thing. The point system does the same but only on a smaller scale by giving the initial 10points/ 3 +1s for free.

Fixed Concussion Hits

Fixed concussion hits is a bigger difference between my rules and RMU beta and almost certainly RMU RAW. Joe public would get typically 100 #hits from a 50 Con + 25 (half SD) plus 25 for race.

Off the shelf RMU characters seem to be starting at level 2 or 3 because of the age analogy so that is probably 8 ranks in Body Dev (+40) plus their stat bonuses plus race so +65 #hits.

The difference then is about +35 #hits in favour of the house rules at the start of play.

The difference balances at about 10th level.

Stat Gains

So stat gains are tied to skill usage or training. When a character successfully uses a skill in a meaningful way or gets specific training in a skill or stat then the applicable stats get ‘ticked’. So if you used the Influence skill successfully, stat bonuses from Em, In, Pr, this would ‘tick’ Empathy, Intuition and Presence.

When the GM chooses to allow experience gains, I know different GMs have different ideas about requiring down time or training time etc, then the player rolls d100 for each stat that is ticked. If the roll is equal or less than the current stat then there is no change, rub out the tick.

If the roll is greater than the current stat then the stat increases by 1. We can now use the genuine Stat -50/3 for the Stat Bonus! We can also get stats up to 100 through stat increases.

The advantages as I see them are that the most used stats are the ones to increase, we don’t need dice for the stat gain amounts and we don’t have to look up that dice on a table. We still don’t need a table for the stat bonuses.

Characters with poor stats tend to increase quicker but stat gains become less frequent as the stats get higher.

The RMU max stat of 100 preserved.

Over to you…

This is what I want to achieve and if you like, my first draft of the rules. Can you improve? Are there other options you would suggest?

Have I broken anything? Would this work just as well in a modern or sci-fi setting? This last question will be a recurring theme as I would like one unified set of house rules with the maximum of utility.

HARP read through – Skills

There are lots of features of the HARP skills system that will seem similar. We have the rule of diminishing returns where the the first ten ranks give a +5 bonus, the next ten +2 then all ranks after that give +1. No ranks gives a -25 for unskilled tasks.

Characters are allowed to buy any number of ranks in a skill each level but are capped at the total number of ranks they can have. This cap is 3 x level +3. So if you bought three ranks during adolescence and three at each level you would always be at your maximum skill bonus.

The unlimited buying of ranks though does mean that if you are 5th level and suddenly decide to change weapon, having just found a holy hammer of smiting that makes your broadsword look a bit lame, they you could rapidly buy up to 21 ranks when you next levelled up (3 x 6 +3). On the other hand as a fighter you would probably have put your professional bonuses into your broadsword up until that point so although you had the same number of ranks you would still be slightly better with the sword than the hammer for a few more levels.

This dual mechanism means that characters can rapidly become competent but it will take several levels for a ‘new’ skill to really equal or exceed a long established skill.

Another subtle change, and one I like, is the skill difficulties. We still get difficulty labels we are used to but the bonus and penalties are more regular.

Mundane No roll is necessary.
Routine (+60) Anyone could complete a maneuver of this type, given time and a bit of luck.
Easy (+40) An apprentice can complete the maneuver with little difficulty.
Light (+20) Given enough time, an apprentice could complete the maneuver.
Medium (+0) The average difficulty inherent in any situation.
Hard (-20) This difficulty level requires a character with expertise to accomplish this maneuver.
Very Hard (-40) Even an expert needs time to successfully complete these types of maneuvers.
Ext. Hard (-60) Only an expert of unparalleled skill, or someone with incredible luck would be able to accomplish maneuvers of this difficulty.
Sheer Folly (-80) Maneuvers at this level teeter on the very edge of natural human capability.
Absurd (-100) These maneuvers are a step above the normal possibilities of most humans.

The progression is logical and doesn’t need a table to reference or look up of what the penalties are. I see this as another table that could be stripped out of RM and another tiny simplification.

Buying skills

This section starts with a boxout telling people to buy hitpoints (Endurance, perception, powerpoints, weapon skills and resistance. Yes, you can train your resistance against disease, poison and magic!

In total there are 63 named skills in nine categories. Those 63 skills are frequently broken down into subskills such as Ride->Ride Horse/Ride Camel and so on.

Every character has typically four or five categories that are favoured and all the skills in these categories cost 2DP and all non-favoured skills/categores cost 4DP.

At character creation characters get 100DPs to spend buying skills. Normally they will get a fixed 50DP per level.

One way that HARP tries to mitigate against skills bloat is by having a dual nature to most skills. This is the description of Appraisal.

So you’ve looted your dungeon, retrieved the sacred staff
and grabbed a few valuables along the way. So, what are they
worth? Appraisal is a character’s bonus for estimating the
value of objects or goods. The character may take this as a
general skill, or he may specialize in specific types of items
or objects, such as weapons, gemstones, metals, animals, etc.

If the character specializes, then a successful Maneuver Roll
will allow him to determine the value of the item to within
5% to 10% of its actual value. If taken as a generalized skill,
then a successful maneuver will allow the character to determine
the value to within 15% to 25% of its actual value.

Different items will have different values within different
cultures. This, along with the general fluctuations associated
with the buying and selling of items, is what causes this skill
to produce such nebulous results. Failure when using this
skill most often results in the character being unable to determine
a value or determining an incorrect value.
(General – Re/In – Percentage)

So you can see that skills may be atomised into more detailed sub skills, which will please RM2 GMs that like their myriad of detailed skills but also satisfies people like me that prefer fewer broaders skills.

Another nice feature of the HARP rules is that the book is easy to read. Take a look at this skill description for Endurance. Endurance is HARP’s answer to Body Development.

“You know the worst thing about the dwarves? They never tire.
Sure you can outrun them, on the first day, or the second. If
you have a horse you can keep going for a few days more, but
they’ll just keep on coming, following your trail, never stopping.
And each time you rest, because you aren’t a dwarf, he
gets a bit closer. And he’ll get you.”

A character’s Endurance skill bonus is, simply put, his
Concussion Hits, a measure of how much damage he can take
before passing out. This skill’s total is comprised of the skill
rank bonus, the stat bonuses listed for this skill, and the Racial
Endurance Bonus listed on the Racial Characteristics Table.

Example: Jorg, a human, with a Endurance bonus of +30
has 12 ranks in Endurance, a Self Discipline of 90 which
gives him a bonus of +8 and a Constitution of 90 which gives
him a bonus of +8. Jorg has a Concussion Hit total of 100
((10 ranks * 5 = 50) + (2 ranks * 2 = 4) + (Co bonus 8 + SD
bonus 8 = 16) + (30 Racial Endurance Bonus) = 100). This
means that Jorg can take 100 hits of damage prior to falling
(Physical – Co/SD – Special)

So you get the little vignette before the skill description, the description, an example and then a brief summary of the category, stat bonuses and skill resolution type. These little vignette scenes are scattered throughout the skills chapter, typically one or two brief ones per page to break up the list.

Training Packages

Training packages are not actually mentioned in the Skills chapter, they come in in chapter 7 ‘Talents & Other’ but I want to mention them here.

I am not a massive fan of Training packages. I generally lump them into the same bracket as skills bloat, profession bloat and talent bloat. On the other hand I have played in a game where they were done really well and I can see the benefit of them when done well.

HARP training packages give a 25% discount on buying the same bundle of skills individually.

HARP Fantasy gives the rules for creating TPs and seven examples. It also includes the fatal flaw with TPs that turns me off.

Players can also create their own TPs. When doing so, they should collaborate with the GM on creating a background story for the TP so that the GM may work it into the campaign world with as little trouble as possible. When a player creates a TP, the GM must always approve it before the character may actually purchase it. This also allows the character to be more involved in the campaign world.

So the flaw is that if you allow players to create their own TPs then the natural born min/maxers will create a character concept and then cram as much as possible into the training package for that concept. Hey presto! in a single action they are getting all their skills 25% cheaper than anyone else. If you are particularly clever you put all your most expensive skills into the TP to get the maximum saving. “Ah yes I am playing a fighter but when he was young he was apprenticed to an investigator at the mages guild and so I created a magical investigator TP with all these magical skills as he had to know about these to investigate magical crimes.”

When TPs are done well I agree that they can add flavour to a campaign. In the game I played, it was Sci Fi, we were the crew of a spaceship and we were offered a single TP for our station on the ship. We had no control over the contents, we bought it or not. For the GM it meant that they could up the competence of the first level characters and the medic had decent medical skills, the pilot really could fly and not kill everyone and so on. It meant that although I was the medic I could still choose any profession for the character.

So I am in favour of GM created TPs but not player created TPs. They should not be a vehicle for min/maxing a character but they should be a way of creating more rounded characters that can have the background lore or social skills relating to their lives and backgrounds without them having to compromise too much on the skills that make them adventuring heroes.

So at the end of the skills buying process HARP characters will probably have six ranks in all their core abilities. So fighters will have six ranks in a melee weapon and a missile weapon, six ranks in endurance, six in perception and so on. Typically a starting skills then in these core areas will be in the ball park of +45, +30 from skill, +12 to +16 or so from stats.

In total skill ranks they will have 20 ranks from their profession, 20 rnaks from their culture and they can afford 25 (all non favoured) to 50 (all favoured) with their DPs assuming they do not buy any talents. This means that a skills based character, such as a rogue can have a really solid base in many skills. On the other hand if you want to specialise you can still be really competent. A starting HARP character is definitely more competent than a starting Rolemaster character.

RMU House Rule #0

OK, so I thought I would take a break from my HARP series today and write about RMU for a change.

This is inspired by the comment made by Aspire2Hope on the post RMU to Infinity and Beyond.

So as you all know my RMC house rules do not use levels or professions. I also use point buy for stats and fixed concussion hits. Basically my entire character creation is dice free so I am perfectly happy to allow players to create their characters away from the gaming table. As long as we have discussed character background and motivations and that is all acceptable then the GM is no longer needed.

What I would like to start is another occasional series of posts where I/we:

  1. take what we know of the state of RMU
  2. for each aspect I state my intended goal
  3. We marry the two together to get a coherent house rule

So for example stat bonuses are neither linear nor exactly bell curve. I would like stat bonuses that don’t need a table to work out so I would throw out there (Stat-50)/3 gives a range of 0 to +/-17. That is slightly more generous than RMU as written with the rate of bonuses increasing and at the top end bonus, +15 vs +17 but it also does away with a table.

I don’t really want my house rules to break the compatibility with RMU too much. I would still like to be able to use off the shelf ICE products but at the same time I would like to promote my ideas of simplicity and speed of play at the gaming table.

Things that I think will cause the most debate will be what to keep in and what to throw out. So we could have a set of simplified house rules and a set of optional house rules that plug in things that I don’t feel the need to use but others do. Allegedly, I am not always right and if that is the case then having alternatives would be good.

This is also an opportunity to build things that are missing like dedicated two handed weapons tables and fix their lack of stopping power.

The big one will be magic. I have never been really happy with Spell Law but it was always too big a challenge to fix but committing myself to doing publically may force me to get the job done.

So that is my intentions. The first and foremost task will be to completely rebuild character creation.

Anyone up for a challenge?

HARP Stats & Culture

So this time I want to cover two chapters of HARP Fantasy, Stats, Race and Culture.

The biggest difference here is that there are eight stats and they are on a scale of 1 to 105.

The rules give three options for generating stats, the first is roll eight d100 rolls and then assign them to the stats. You have your profession so you already know where you should traditionally be putting your best rolls.

The second option is heavily promoted as the recommended option and that is point buy. 550 points spread over the eight stats. There is an increasing cost for higher stats.

Stat Range

Cost per Point

The same costs are used for stat gains on leveling up but you spend DPs on stat gains at that point.

The final option is 500 point to spend plus 10d10. 

Development points are either fixed at 50 per level, recommended, or based upon stats. There is a boxout that warns that some players will spend their DPs to increase there stats to get more DPs in a virtuous circle and/or arms race.

Stat bonuses are work out to be stat-50/5 rounding up. So a stat of 51-55 gives a +1 a stat of 76 gives +6 and 100 +10. Above 100 the bonus increases at +1 per point to a max of 105 giving +15.

The stats are largely the same as Rolemaster stats but we have lost Memory and Empathy. Intuition has be renamed Insight but apart from that you will be entirely comfortable with the stats and their impact on skills.

Races & Cultures

There are six pure races available Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Gryx, Halfling and Human. They get a mix of stat bonuses ranging from -2 to +5. They all come out roughly as having a net bonus of +10. Human’s though are treated differently. The player can assign up to 10 ‘pluses’ to any stats as long as no stat gets more than a +3. This means you can have tough northmen or intellectual urban dwellers without having to define new races and then of course that muddies the idea of setting neutral rules.

In addition to stat modifiers each race gets resistance roll modifiers, an endurance point bonus and a Powerpoint bonus. Endurance points are HARPs #hits so dwarves are the toughest at +40 and elves the most fragile at +20. Everyone else fits in between.

In reference to one of the RMU discussions every stat has at least one race that has a bonus in that stat. Also bowing to common stereotypes Elves and Gnomes get the biggest powerpoint bonuses but I was pleased to see that even Dwarves get a bonus. These powerpoint bonuses are in the region of +10 to +40 with humans getting +30.

The racial descriptions are definitely adequate. You get about eight paragraphs of background which would be useful to a new player or GM but then you get a description of the ‘blood talents’ that make the race different. Every race has three blood talents.

These blood talents are really cool. At the end of the racial descriptions is a list of blood talents. There is a lesser or greater blood talent for every race with a description of the effect on the character. Each lesser blood talent costs 5DPs and a greater 10DPs. At the time of character creation the player can add a dash of another races blood to their gene pool by buying the matching blood talent. If a parent was of that race then you would probably take the greater blood talent but if it was a grand parent then just a less blood talent. So with this a la carte method any combination of base race plus mixed blood can be created. Here is an example…

Dwarven Blood (Lesser)

The character has a bit of Dwarven blood in his ancestry, marking him with slightly Dwarven features. The player may also select any one of the following Special Abilities to replace any one of the character’s normal racial Special Abilities. Once selected, it cannot be altered.

  • Dark Vision (Greater)
  • Dense Musculature
  • Stone Sense

Dwarven Blood (Greater)
One of the character’s parents is a Dwarf, making him half-Dwarven. His features are heavily marked, denoting his Dwarven heritage. The player may select any two of the following to replace any two of the character’s normal racial Special Abilities.

  • Dark Vision (Greater)
  • Dense Musculature
  • Stone Sense
  • The character’s Dwarven blood has a strong influence on his physique, determination, and lifespan.
    • Constitution Bonus: +2
    • Self Discipline Bonus: +2
    • Average the lifespan of both your races.

I think this is brilliant, simple and elegant.

The rest of the chapter is taken up with some tables for typical height, weight, ages and base movement rates for all the races.


The cultures section gives a description of each of the featured cultures and the number of starting ranks in languages. Although it does emphasise that Dwarves, for example, normally come from Deep Warrens there is absolutely no requirement to stick with those norms. 

So cultures are given a paragraph on Location, Clothing and Demeanor of that cultures members. but then there is a table of free adolescent skill ranks.

Every culture gets 20 free ranks including every culture getting at least one rank in melee weapon and at least one rank in missile weapons. The most militaristic culture gets 2 and 3 ranks and most get 1 and 2 ranks in some combination.

So by now your character has 20 ranks in their professional areas from their profession and 20 ranks across a wide range of categories from their culture and then languages on top. This is before anyone has spent a single development point.

So next time I will cover skills and we get to spend some DPs!

Chapter 3 Professions

The first step when creating a HARP Fantasy character
is to choose a Profession. Much like a career, a Profession
reflects the focus your character has given to training and
development. A Profession also determines how difficult it can
be for you to learn certain skills. Some of the special abilities
found in HARP Fantasy are only available to characters of
a particular Profession. Finally, a Profession can also offer
insight into a character’s demeanor or motivation in life.

Not sure I agree with the last sentence but I will let that ride as they do say ‘can’ not ‘does’

So professions…

As mentioned last time, there are nine professions. The first thing I noticed that was ‘odd’ and un-Rolemaster was the prime stats for the professions. Clerics have two key stats, Insight and Reasoning but fighters have four key stats, Strength, Agility, Constitution, Quickness. Harpers have 3, Reasoning, Insight, & Presence. So rather than everyone has two prime stats HARP makes a more logical decision of actually highlighting the stats that are really most likely to be useful to that profession.

What you don’t get is an automatic 90 in the key stats if you have rolled badly so key stats are very much just information only.

Another difference is professional bonuses. In HARP they are called Professional Abilities but they are the same thing. RM2 has +1 to +3 per level in specific categories. RMSS has the whole thing up front as a boost to starting characters. HARP doles the bonuses out on a regular basis. A Cleric for example gets to add a +10 bonus to any one skill every 7 levels. A fighter gets to add a +10 to any combat skill every 3 levels and a +5 to any Athletic or Physical skill. Every profession has a customised list of where these bonuses can be added and at what interval of levels.

There is a very interesting section on Mages. Mages don’t get level bonuses they get a different ability which I won’t go into. What is interesting is that mages have access to 40 spells but only 33 are listed in the HARP Fantasy book. This effectively makes College of Magic non-optional.

So leaving that aside, each profession has a number of favoured skill categories. The number of favoured categories varies from profession to profession with fighters and warrior mages being the most limited at four categories each and rogues being the most flexible at seven categories.

As part of the skill rules not only do each profession have a number of categories but every profession gets 20 free ranks to spend in those categories. The distribution of those ranks is defined so you cannot pile all 20 into Broadsword for example. This is the Fighters categories and free ranks.

Favored Categories
Athletic: 2 General: 2
Combat: 8 Physical: 8

And in contrast this is a Rogue

Favored Categories
Athletic: 3 General: 3
Combat: 3 Physical: 3
Mystical Arts: 2 Subterfuge: 3
Outdoor: 3

And for a spell user the Mage

Favored Categories
Artistic: 2 General: 4
Influence: 2 Physical: 2
Mystical Arts: 10

So right from the start the new player creating a character is starting to fill in the skills on the second page of their character record. I quite like this but it does remind me of the original MERP character creation.

After the list of professions we get a few special rules.

The rules on attacking multiple targets, covered here under monks martial arts are virtually identical to RMUs multiple attacks. The only discernible difference is that the penalty is -20 per additional attack. In RMU I believe it is -25.

Now things get a bit more divergent from Rolemaster.

HARP allows multiple professions. The basics of it are that you spend 20DPs when you level up for the option to add a new profession to the character. From that moment on when you level up you choose which of your professions to level up. Once you have made that choice you spend your DPs using that professions costs. The next time you level up you can again choose which of your professions to level up, rinse and repeat.

Regarding experience the cost in EXP to level up uses the sum of all your levels so if you were 3rd level fighter and a 3rd level rogue then you would count as 6th level.

So that is the bulk of the content. The multiple professions is the give difference and it does allow you to make some interesting combinations. I also really like the way they have balanced professions. I kind of expected everyone to get six favoured categories and have two key stats and get 20 free ranks and get a +10 professional bonus every x levels but it is not like that. Everything has been tweaked and massaged to balance the professions and make them a little bit more differentiated.

So far there is nothing I don’t like and despite the more limited scope of HARP over RM2 I think there is great flexibility here.

My last thought is on College of Magics. I don’t own this book but it looks like I will need to buy it. I don’t think this is a hardship, it is only $15. Also there seems to be a ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ thing going on where RM players look on enviously at HARPs scalable spells and HARP players want RMs critical tables.

I will add CoM to my reading list.

Next time will be stats, races and cultures.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

This is our latest 50 in 50 adventure and it is a great one to GM. If you are into making noises and impressions there are some great animal noises to make. If your players are the sort that immediate leap for the Spirit Mastery list and then try and interrogate the hell out of the first peasant/guard/goblin they get their hands on then they are out of luck. If they are the sort that like to put everything to sleep then given the numbers of attackers you can throw at them then they are out of luck. If they are motivated by gold, silver and things that glow under Detect Essence spells then they are out of luck.

In Monkey See, Monkey Do, the characters wander into an area dominated by some unusually aggressive and carnivorous apes. The apes react badly to the presence of intruders, and have a lair in a series of caves beneath the ruins of an old watchtower. The apes have a large enough presence that outright combat may prove to be hazardous.

This is aimed at d100 systems but is generic enough in nature to be adapted to others.

This PDF supports Adobe layers and the page backgrounds and images can be disabled to make printing easier.

The adventure comes with a 32″x24″ battlemap of the wilderness taking up twelve pages and a 32″x30″ battlemap of the caves, also taking up twelve pages, that can be printed out and assembled.

I will also point out that I do know that Apes are not monkeys but that would have ruined my title!

HARP Fantasy Walk-though Pt1

When I first mooted this idea it was to do a chapter per post. Having looked at the rulebook there are 15 chapters but some are more substantial than others and some lend themselves to be discussed together. 

This is all based upon High Adventure Role Playing Fantasy, last updated 7th April 2017.

Chapter 1 was largely fluff and waffle about the history of HARP, what is an RPG and differences between versions. We can skip all that and get on with Chapter 2 Character Creation Overview.

So HARP describes character creation as a six step process:

  1. Choose Profession
  2. Generate Stats
  3. Race & Culture
  4. Buy Skills & Talents
  5. Buy Equipment
  6. Final Touches

Of the professions there are nine included in the book: Cleric, Fighter, Harper, Mage, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Thief, and Warrior Mage. I am curious about the Warrior Mage as I know that HARP allows multi class characters so what is the difference between a Fighter/Mage multiclass and a Warrior Mage?

Stats-wise HARP uses 8 stats: Strength, Constitution, Agility, Quickness, Self
Discipline, Reasoning, Insight and Presence. There is no appearance stat which I am quite pleased about. It always bugged me that RM claimed 10 stats then made you roll an 11th stat which was treated completely differently to the other 10 but was then not used anywhere else in the game.

The Race & Culture overview lists six races Human, Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling and Gryx, with Gryx being Orc to you and me. There are no half breeds but I do know that HARP has some very neat rules for half breeding the races at both parental and grand-parental levels.

The cultures offered are Deep Warrens,  Shallow Warrens, Sylvan, Nomadic, Rural, Urban and Underhill. No Reaver which is a pity as that is a PC favourite. Cultures give characters a collection of free skill ranks that are added straight to the character sheet. Each culture gives a total of 20 ranks but more of that when we cover the cultures chapter.

Skills and Talents. Skills are grouped into categories, so no surprise there. Each profession then has a list of favoured and non-favoured categories. Within those categories each skill will cost 2DPs. All the skills in a non-favoured category cost 4DPs per rank. The ranks give the expected +5/rank for the first 10 ranks. You get 100DPs at first level and you cannot by more than six ranks for a starting character and no more than three ranks per level in later levels. This means that starting characters are going to be more competent than equivalent RM characters that would have been capped at four ranks at first level, two from adolescence and two from apprenticeship.

Talents are bought in the same way that we have seen in RMU and Chapter 7 has an extensive list. I will go into this in more detail in a separate post.

Equipment is bought using 10+1d10 gold pieces. HARP uses just four coins. Platinum which is ten times the value of gold, Gold which is the ‘gold standard’ and silver is one tenth the value of gold and copper that is one tenth of the value of silver. so 1pp is worth 10gp, 100sp and 1000cp. That has stripped out the bronze, iron and tin pieces that we are used to. Prices in HARP are pretty much identical to my copy of Character Law. A boradsword is 10sp and chain shirt 65sp in both games. Starting money in RMC is 50sp +1d100sp so on average 100sp and a max of 150sp. In HARP the absolute minimum is 110sp and the max is 200sp. So not only are starting HARP character better skilled but they are also better equipped.

The final step is of course the fleshing out process of personality, likes, dislike, attitudes and back story.

A boxout on the page tells new players about the importance of prime stats which is why profession comes before stat rolling. 

This first character overview chapter makes many references to the character record. I have put them below. I think any RM player would be instantly at home with them. Interesting to note is that Fate points are built in as a core rule and there are plenty of lines for multiple professions for those that have fond memories of the Fighter/Magic User/Thief. The second page includes every skill in the fantasy game and at least one blank line for something additional.


I don’t think that any rolemaster player would be overly put out by the look of a HARP character. I can see how the RMU categories with one cost per category could be be half way house between traditional Rolemaster’s one cost per skill and HARPs fixed prices for favoured and non-favoured skills. The crux being that old Rolemaster fans are used to an infinite array of professions and they want them all to be differentiated and HARP has few professions and few additions in its supplements. That isn’t really a limitation as characters can have multiple professions so an RM Magent could be a Mage + Rogue in HARP, for example.

Next time I will see how HARP treats its professions.

Read Through Reviews

There is HARP, RMC/RM2, RMSS/RMFRP and there is RMU. Most of the readership here seem to be in the RMC/RM2 camp. Up until last month I had only a vague understanding of just how different RMFRP was to RMC.

I cannot say I like RMFRP but I can see that there are some good elements in it.

On the other hand I read the HARP Fantasy rules last year and I did like what I read. I have also bought HARP SF and Folkways but I haven’t even read them so I have no valid opinion.

So apart from admitting my general ignorance I thought I would steal someone else’s idea educate myself as well as anyone else that is interested. The idea comes from the TakeOnRules blog. What the writer did was read and discuss one chapter of the Stars Without Number rulebook in each posting. Trying to cover an entire game system in a single post can often miss some of its best features especially if you have never actually played the game.

So I want to do something similar with HARP Fantasy. We all know RMC/RM2 so I want to do a detailed walk through of the HARP rules relating them back to RMC/RM2. If this proves popular I would like to do something similar with HARP SF as my next Sci Fi game will be HARP SF. Finally, Folkways is probably the newest ICE publication I have and the one that the least people will have read so I thought a decent review of the actual book would be valuable.

This will not be a rigid “The next 20 posts will all be on HARP”. I am too scatterbrained for that. If something peaks my interest then I will write about it or if something is important then I will discuss it. I think there is a lot of HARP DNA in RMU so I think that these articles could be interesting to the whole RM community. I also think that it will give us RM players a better understanding of HARP.

TakeOnRules failed, in my opinion, in so much as they got about eight chapters in and then I don’t know if there was a loss of interest or the summer slowdown killed it but whatever happened the series has been stagnant since mid-July. I will take any feedback as we go on how to make these the most interesting reads that I can. We also have the advantage that HARP and RM are sufficiently close that something great in HARP could easily become a house rule in RM. As to the timings I may try and whizz through some of these faster than one post a week. Things still seem a bit slow on the forums so we can help fill the summer RPG vacuum.