Star Wars RPG?

Image result for mandalorian

Back in July of 2016 I went a bit off topic to blog about a new TV series I saw: Stranger Things. What a difference a few years make, as the show went on to become a cultural sensation and further promoted the D&D legacy into our culture.

Recently I had the opportunity to watch a new show, The Mandalorian, that has quickly become the new “It Show”. Much of that is due to the popularity of Star Wars for over 40 years, and some of it to the quality of the show.

I’m not going to review the show or risk spoilers, but just in case—spoiler alert! What struck me the most about the show was how closely it adhered to classic RPG beats. It was similar to reading a RPGLit book—the dice rolls, traditions and tropes were all right there on the screen. Some may argue that these are devices more similar to video games; that may be true but video games themselves drew from tabletop traditions. I find this revealing: for decades Star Wars was defined as following ancient mythical storylines: The Heroes Journey and classic fairy tales wrapped in a fantasy/scifi setting. But throughout the Star Wars trilogy there hasn’t really been traditional gaming mechanics. Yes, characters develop some abilities—mostly the young Jedi protagonists—but this was done through plot advancement and some handwaving. (Lukes Jedi training might only have lasted in days or weeks, and yet was the sum of his formal education in the movies).

The Mandalorian is a completely different beast. There is a serial adventure nature to the show. “Mando” finishes adventures with special alloy treasure that he brings to the “Armorer” to have forged into upgraded equipment. There are side adventures. There is new, cool equipment that gives added abilities and firepower. The Mando takes real damage, needs healing and is restrained by ammo and weapon limitations. You have temporary NPC’s (who mostly die and thus don’t have a lengthy plotline) that aid the Mandalorian for that particular adventure. I think it’s incredible that popular culture is embracing (perhaps unknowingly) a clear gaming format into a high-profile serialized event.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another high budget show that adheres to gaming mechanics in such a clear way. Thoughts?

HARP: A closer look at falling

Eventually, things in adventuring go wrong, and you need to deal with them when they do. I will focus on falling, likely to the character’s death, and the various charts and equations for dealing with the impact.

Things were going fine for a while, but now you’ve tripped over something near a ledge, lost the reigns of your flying mount, or been pushed out the airlock in atmosphere. You’re now in a free fall, and this is going to hurt.

How far you fall determines the size of the Impact Critical when you hit.

  • 1′ – 20′ / 0m – 6m: Tiny
  • 21′ – 50′ / 7m – 16m: Small
  • 51′ – 100′ / 17m – 33m: Medium
  • 101′ – 200′ / 34m – 66m: Large
  • 201’+ / 67m+: Huge

Armor, Shields, and your Quickness bonus won’t help you against the impact at the end of your fall. Skill in Acrobatics can increase safe falling distance, a few psionic disciplines and spells can do the same or turn the fall into flight, and your magical and psionic bonuses to Defense will be subtracted from the critical.

In most situations, things that are falling don’t hit the ground instantly. Below is the Falling Table from Martial Law in list format.

  • Round 1: Speed 30’/rnd, total distance fallen 30′
  • Round 2: Speed 60’/rnd, total distance fallen 90′
  • Round 3: Speed 150’/rnd, total distance fallen 240′
  • Round 4: Speed 210’/rnd*, total distance fallen 480′

At round 4 and after, the character will continue falling at terminal velocity until the fall is stopped.

On round 4 and after, the falling character will continue to fall at terminal velocity until the fall is stopped. Gravity can affect both terminal velocity and how long a character has to be saved. HARP SF uses 70 times (the square root of local gravity divided by the square root of local atmospheric pressure) to determine terminal velocity in meters per second. To get the time until a falling character hits terminal velocity in seconds, take divide the the local terminal velocity by ten times local gravity.

Remember, you can fall father safely on low gravity worlds, and falling on high gravity worlds is a bad idea. Good luck, and watch out for that first step.

HARP Read Through – Adventuring

The adventuring chapter starts with an overview of skill resolution and when you should or shouldn’t roll a skill tests. It the goes on to describe the typical skill test types, all or nothing, percentage, bonus and resisance roll. The last is what we would consider an opposed test.

I will cover bonus and resistance rolls in a second.

HARP uses the phrase Target Number a lot more than I am used to in other Rolemaster games. I think this is a good thing as Target Number is pretty much a normal phrase in so many games that adopting it would make HARP a little bit more approachable. I don’t think one phrase in isolation will make much difference but when one phrase becomes one of many such minor accommodations I think they do add up and make the rule book easier to digest for people coming from other games.

We are used to a target number of 101 or 111 but in Rolemaster resistance rolls can have all sorts of target numbers.

So for percentage skill tests you roll, add your skill, deduct any penalties and basically round down to the nearest 10 and that is your progress. So a real example imagine you are climbing a cliff face in a raging storm which is Sheer Folly (-80). You roll a 67  add your climbing skill of 45 gives 112 minus the 80 difficulty leave 32. This leaves 32 which is 30% completed.

HARP has very neatly removed a frequently used table with this simple mechanic. Any result below zero is a fail and there are rules/consequences for that.

Bonus skill rolls are when you can use a complimentary skill. You roll your skill roll and then if you get over 100 then you get a bonus to the primary skill when you roll it. If you get below 101 then you get a penalty. Again there is a really simple formula to the bonuses so you do not really need the table.

Resistance Roll skills are for opposed skill tests. So you roll your skill as normal and the result on the table is the target number that the opposing character has to beat to win the contest. So this is what you would use for stalk vs perception as an example.

The Resistance Roll column is also used for attacking spells or what we would recognise as base spell (BAR) rolls. The idea that the casters casting roll  becomes the resistance roll target number of course is now part of RMU but it started here. The difference being that it was all neatly parsed into round numbers from 65 at the low end to a whopping 260 if your spell casting roll total 301+! Resist that spell if you can!

Utility spells get their own column. Depending on the roll effects such as range or duration can be doubled or tripled on an amazing spell casting roll.

All the skill based fumbles are compressed into a single page table including the classic moving maneuver fail of “You stumble over an unseen imaginary dead turtle.”. That is what you get if you fail you MM and then roll an 01.

Attacking Objects

My favourite rule is the attacking objects rule. This is incredibly simple. So it is a Percentage skill roll using double the characters strength bonus or a suitable skill to make the skill roll. The other half of the equation is the difficulty factor. There is a single table of example materials and their difficulty factors. So it is routine to smash a glass window, extremely hard to break manacles but only a medium difficulty to smash a packing crate.

This rule is going to make it into my RMU house rules as it is so simple. If people want to do this sort of thing in time critical situations then this mechanic works perfectly!

The end of the skills section covers throwing things and what happens when they miss including rules of hand grenades or Slatar’s Bombs as they are called. How to handle anything for which there is no obvious skill, so called unusual actions.

We now get a bit of a GM’s adventuring instruction manual. How to handle things like light sources, how much they illuminate and how far characters can see with different talents. It also covers things like fighting in water or undergrowth. I particularly like the treatment of invisibility with perception roll modifiers if the invisible person walks across a dirty floor or it is raining and all that sort of thing.

There are falling rules with the distance fallen specifying the critcal severity rather than an attack table for falls. There are rules for different types of traps. Most of these rules specify difficulties for the related skill rolls. So there is a difficulty for spotting the trap, deactivating the trap and so on. It is a bit of a whirlwind tour of how flexible the skill system is in HARP and seems quite impressive, at least to me.

Just to give you an idea of how broad this second half of the adventuring chapter is here is part of the contents listing (the numbers is the page number) …

Using an Untrained Skill 73
Using The Maneuver Table 73
All-or-Nothing Maneuvers 74
Stat-Based Maneuvers 74
Percentage Results 74
Bonus Results 74
Skill vs. Skill 75
Modifying Maneuver Rolls 75
Resistance Rolls (RR) 76
Resolution Methods 76
Spell Casting 77
Casting Utility Spells 77
Casting Attack Spells 77
Elemental Attack Spells 77
Fumbles 77
Attacking An Object 79
Grenade-like Attacks 80
Unusual Actions & Maneuvers 80
Light & Vision 81
Light Sources 81
Special Combat Conditions 82
Invisibility 82
Limited Visibility 82
Fighting “Blind” 83
Occupational Hazards 83
Falling Damage 83
Traps 84
Sample Mechanical Traps 84
Magical Traps 84
Asphyxiation and Holding Breath 85
Watery Hazards 85
Drowning 85
Quick Sand 85
Starvation & Thirst 86
Heat 86
Cold 86
Other Dangers 86
Injury, Healing, & Death 87
Non-Magical Healing 88
Concussion Hits and Stat Loss 88
Other Damage 88
Magical Healing 88
Death 88

You have got to be impressed with the breadth of the hazards covered and the brevity of the rules.

So that is the Adventuring chapter. Next time We will cover Combat, everyone’s favourite!

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!

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.

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.

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.


As I mentioned last week in my settings post  I have been given a selection of HârnWorld materials to look at by Columbia Games Inc.

As always I am a bit late to the party as it appears that most of you are already familiar to some extent with Hârn whereas I am rather new to it as a setting.

So Hârn is a long established, system neutral game setting that attempts to be realistically medieval in its approach. There is a lot of fantasy here as there is an ancient disappeared race of Ancients or Earthmasters. You get orcs, Gargun on Hârn, and 12′, two ton lizards where the female is definitely more deadlier than the male.

The gods of Hârn are presented but it is left to each GM to decide if the actual gods exist or not. There are definitely hints at wizards and magic but this is rarely mentioned. I think it was mentioned in that previous post how Hârn is a low magic setting.

From a physical point of view each Hârn book I have looked at has been 60 to 70 pages. So each is tightly focused on a specific region or place and there are a great many books. I think this is a great plus. The Shadow World master atlas  I have looked at is 358 pages and then you need the regional books and they run into another 200 to 300 pages each. I simply cannot assimilate a thousand pages of material before I even start play.  65 page booklet I can read in an evening.

Rather neatly when any Hârn book references another work it puts the reference in the margin. In the sample below there are references to the Kindom or Kaldor region book and individual cities. These add on modules can are priced from as little as $3.99 to up to $20 depending on how substantial a city it is. The biggest module I have seen so far is the City of Tashal at 70 pages including a lot of floor plans for $36.

The second big plus is the way that Columbia Games Inc. respects the GM. Every book is based on play starting at the beginning of the year 720. At no time will they publish beyond that date. Your adventures start here and the publisher will never contradict you. Bearing in mind that I play a lot in the Forgotten Realms; not having your campaign setting ripped to pieces just so they can sell a new version is a major plus to my mind!

So what are the negatives?

The one thing that really stands out is the quality of the art. Hârn was first published in 1983 and it looks like the art has not progressed much since that time. I fully accept that you do not buy a setting for its artwork, it is the content that counts but when you compare the presentation of the Hârn  materials to other system neutral settings and Hârn feels ‘old’ or should that be ‘old fashioned’.

Great art can make you go ‘Wow! I want to play in that world.’ The first impression created by the Hârn books I have seen do not have that wow factor.

Hârn Freebies!

You do not have to take my word for it. Columbia Games Inc have a section on RPGnow of promotional materials. These you can download for free to get a first hand experience of what the materials are like. You can get them here.

So how about Rolemaster in Hârn?

As someone pointed out, Rolemaster is not a low magic system. That is the only modification that would challenge a GM in my opinion. Someone last week said that some of the professions would need tweaking but you all know I am an advocate of the no profession set up anyway. If you are one of those people that imported all the companions pretty much wholesale then you could have a problem. I never saw the companions that way. The companions to me were books of suggestions to be considered and then used or put aside.

So could you run a high magic game in Hârn? Certainly! There is rumoured to be an entire Earthmaster city buried somewhere and who knows what mysteries it holds.

I like low magic so I don’t have a problem with this. I have more of a problem with the Rolemaster Monty Haul approach to spell lists and the deluge of spells available to each caster, but that is just me!



I.C.E. Deep Dive. Loremaster Series Review pt.4: The Shade of the Sinking Plain.

We are at the last chapter of my reviews of the original Loremaster module series. I wish I could say I saved the best for last; but that’s not really the case. While Shade of the Sinking Plain has occupied a place of curiosity, appeal and mystery for decades, it’s not that great. Basically a D&D module re-purposed for Rolemaster.

Despite it’s arguable quality, it’s generally seen as a “rare” book, at times on par or even more than the price of The Court of Ardor. SotSP can fetch hundreds of dollars or more in excellent condition. But has anyone read it or even used it in an adventure? A quick but not exhaustive search via google and I couldn’t find a single review of the Shade of the Sinking Plain!

First off, SotSP is a “Loremaster Adventure from North Pole Publications, Inc.” and prominently says so on the cover and ToC.  Interestingly, North Pole Publications did at least two other products: The Serpent Islands and Tome of Mighty Magic and there may be MORE. I don’t have time to hunt them down, but it would be interesting to find out more on the company. The credits can be found in the back. Apparently the author was Roger Walker with development credits to Terry, Douglas Bohlman and Rober Walker.  The remainder of the credits for art, production, editing and play testing seems a mix of North Pole and ICE.

The Cover.

The cover art quality is average but the scene itself is compelling.  A robed figure sits on his throne while slaves or pirates present treasure and booty. Skulking behind the throne is a Demon of some sort. The art appears to be done by Victoria Wheeler in 1983. The back side of the 1 piece cover is a large hex map of the “Northern Kingdoms” (which is Trademarked apparently). It’s a fairly simple map with only major geographic features, the location of the Shade’s keep, a few cities and that’s about it. Pretty sparse and in no way the quality of the Iron Wind or Cloudlords. (or Vog Mur for that matter). Again, we get the sense that this is an outlier. More Judges Guild for D&D than a curated ICE/RM product from Terry, Pete and crew.

Table of Contents.

The ToC looks like an attempt to bend the modules material into the standard Loremaster organization: section 1 is on the world of Loremaster, 2 is a general overview, 3 is Politics and Power, 4 is a physical overview, 5 is people of note, 6 is layouts, 7 is a gamemaster guide and 8 is scenarios/adventures. I’ll get more into the actual content, but it feels like there was a half-hearted attempt to “Loremasterize” some of the material by North Pole.

Material starts at page 2 and the font type immediately feels like Judges Guild or Midkemia Press than an ICE product with a smaller more distinct font. There is 1 page of the standard “world of loremaster” copy and then some definitions/glossary with RPG terms and historical people and items. Page 5 has a short general overview: basically the land of the Sinking Plain is an enormous marsh. That’s it in a nutshelf. A paragraph on inhabitants: the only humanoids are Trolls. The cities are mostly Common Man. The woods have Elves. The foothills have Goblins, Orcs and Dwarves. This is all very generic.

Politics and Power.

This section is an overview of the three cities: Zetta, Garrothold and Oriz, but the majority of the section focuses on Oriz. Why it’s called “Politics and Power” is beyond me. Zetta and Garrothold only have the briefest of material so the GM will have to fill in a lot of information for the cities to be useful in the game. Oriz gets a small hand drawn map (see above), lengthier material on different city districts, a rumor chart and some notes on the monetary system.  Strangely, each of the 8 districts are covered twice, first as descriptions and then again under a sub-category “Economy”.  Overall there is 5-6 pages covering the 3 cities and it’s sparse. The last section is a Vignette–a short first person narrative used to introduce the Shade. I’m curious whether this was written by Terry or an ICE staff member as the quality of the writing is much better than the rest of the module.

Physical Overview.

This section is short and a bit puzzling. First there is the crappy map you see above–my drawings are pretty bad, but that one looks like it took all of  minutes to draw. Unlike the other Loremaster/MERP and SW books which feature excellent maps, Shade just doesn’t keep up. Then there is a short section that describes the Shade’s keep and his Bronze Barge.  The barge is very cool, but this material should have just been inserted in the later “Layout” section. Finally there are some encounter tables that don’t work well inserted into the page layout–they should have been structured as actual tables in the back. Again, the organization of this module is poor and really breaks up the flow of information.

Peoples of Note.

This is really the “Politics and Power” section as it covers the key NPC’s and there history. This is the core of most ICE modules as it provides an overview of the dynamics and backgrounds of the key people. This section is a bit more comprehensive (punched up by Terry or ICE?), and covers the “Shade”, Aaron the pirate captain, Prince Arndre W’ricke ruler of Zetta, Danel Silens an advisor, King Y’rage, Smiley a war lord, and finally Lito Extempler prelate of the truth. Most of the section is spent on the Shade, as it’s the key NPC opponent for the players.


Section 6 covers the layouts of the key locations. First is the Shade’s keep:

It’s basic but serviceable. Then there are some detailed drawings of the portcullis winch system and piping used to disperse a variety of fluids: oil, acid, paralysis and “moron oil”. These oils are keps in cauldrons that run along ceiling tracks. Compared to the rest of the module, this is very specific and detailed and feels like Terry or Pete had a hand in this.

The next layout is the Shade’s tower:

This is a great layout and the layout key was definitely written by Terry or ICE. There are great traps, descriptive text and there are 14 levels in the tower. The Shade’s tower layout is really the best part of the module and a great drop-in to any campaign. In fact, it would be a great fortress for Roth Naku, the Lich that resides in the Thanor Stand (p. 68 Emer II).

The next layout is the Shade’s bronze battle barge.

The barge is huge, with multi story battle towers, rams, catapults and driven by an Elemental Engine. Very cool so far, but here is the kicker for me: the 380′ barge can be reduced to toy size and put in a storage bottle due to a spell “Boat in a Bottle”. I was never a fan of shrinking castles and ships and it doesn’t feel very Rolemaster.

Game Master’s Guide.

Section 7.0 is a mixture of material. The first part covers the “adventure phases”–basically the writer sees this module as a linear adventure rather than a sandbox setting like the other Loremaster books. It’s a short story in 4 parts: gather info, travel to the keep, the battle, return and collect reward. The next part introduced new magic items. There are a few good ones included but one in particular is like the barge: it’s a marble cube that transform into a 13 level fortress including forming a hill as it’s base.  Again, I’m not keen on the concept; it seems more whimsical magic than the more grounded magic found in Rolemaster. After the magic items, we have a number of new creatures: some Demonic creatures, some hybrids, snakes and giant spiders. Nothing to revolutionary or creative. Next are new spells. This IS interesting as North Pole Publications also did a Tome of Mighty Magic. Listed are individual spells that name lists and level so they can be incorporated into existing Spell Law lists. Many of the spells are more suited to d20 games but there are few goods ones:

Tangle Weed. Basically allows plants to attack using Large envelope. Plant attacks weren’t found in the first iterations of Spell Law (either Animist or Ranger) and seem pretty obvious in hindsight.

Alaup’s Zufferooma. I’m not a fan of “named” spells, but this one is pretty funny. It creates an almost indestructible, horrid, camel that is constantly surrounded by a sand whirlwind.

Healing Sleep. This is a good one. It basically sends the target into a deep sleep but also provides accelerated healing.

Hey Bartender. Yes, this spell summons a magical bar and bartender.

Elemental Summons. RM didn’t have any elemental summons for quite a while. The module has 6 summon and control spells that can be inserted into Gate Mastery. That’s a good add if you are using 1st edition RM.

The next few pages are the master charts: Personalities, NPC’s of Note, suggested player characters (thief, rogue, ranger, bard, magician, cleric), Master military, creatures, movement/travel rate chart, and several price charts.


The final section breaks down the adventure path with very specific If/When conditions.  Again, the intent here is a standard linear adventure, the the GM is coached here to keep the train on the tracks. But in this section is something interesting: a simple large scale combat system. Basically this is used for a infantry or siege battle with 30 minute phases, morale checks, archery mechanics, fortifications and charts  for Attack Conditions, Heavy Weapons, Ship Capabilities and troop training. I’m not familiar with War Law, but someone should check these rules out and see if they make sense. They only take up about a page or two and it might be a nice little mechanic for troop actions in RM.

Overall impressions and thoughts. At it’s core, Shade of the Sinking Plain is a short, basic adventure. The efforts to expand it’s scope with cities and regional maps just fall short in quality and there is so little there it’s basically meaningless anyway. However, the Shade’s keep and battle barge are cool and interesting and the NPCs can be easily fleshed out. There are some good spell ideas and that battle mechanic may be useful for a quick and dirty mechanic. Ultimately, the most useful and well done section is the Shade’s tower and that definitely has a RM/SW feel to it.

Finally, for clarification, my module The Priest King of Shade WAS meant to be a re-imagining of Shade of the Sinking Plain. I kept the best “kernels” of Shade and expanded it into a more traditional Shadow World regional module located in SW Argyra.

Thus ends my 4 part blog on the original Loremaster series! Thanks for reading.