The first page of this chapter I had to read twice just to check I hadn’t missed something.
The opening topic is a four step, three page and multi-table process on how to make wandering monster checks. This flows into encounters by terrain tables and then a key to the the monster stat tables. There are just two sentences on the idea of the GM actually planning encounters and that they may be used to advance a story. Maybe, I certainly hope so, there will more on that side of things in the GMing chapters?
So, that gripe aside, the actual content is quite a nice random encounter process. The first table has modifiers for terrain types cross referenced with movement types and conditions. So being in a hostile area makes encounters more likely as does traveling fast, being slow and careful makes an encounter less likely. There are a nice range of situations and conditions covered by the table.
The mechanism is roll d100 OE add the modifiers from the table and if the result is 101+ then there will be a random encounter.
The next section is determining the encounter. Here HARP is better placed than off the shelf Rolemaster as it is assumed that HARP will be being played in Cyradon so the mix of people and monsters are presumably right for that setting. They are also pretty generic enough to be used just about anywhere.
We then get into a basic starter bestiary. There are 35 included monsters, they are presented as a single table of stats. Do you remember the original Arms Law Claw Law where there was one page of monster stats at the back? If you do then this is almost identical. Following this are monster descriptions. I have included one of them here. You can see how the DB is broken down into its individual sources, remember that armour is represented as DB in HARP. You also get all the ‘talents’ that build up the creatures.
I mention the DB because of the ongoing RMU passive bonuses debate. If DB was listed in this way with all the sources then GMs would be able to tell what applies and what doesn’t.
All the monsters from Ant, Giant to Zombie take 8 pages and then you get all the talents used to build the monsters fully explained in two and a half pages and the creature stats, as if they were playable races in a page.
The final page deals with mounts and domesticated animals. These get basic stats should you want to kill one but also a basic set of skills so you can roll the tracking skill for your bloodhound or let your horse lead you to water.
I think the HARP treatment of creatures is another one of its strengths. The orc shown above is detailed in that you get the skills side of it, the monsters are sophisticated because of the talents used to build them but at the same time they are nice and simple. You do not have to ‘build an orc’ because you run every simple encounter.
For a one volume core book I think the monsters are adequate and you could probably run a wide range of adventures with just these. I can also see why people would be desperate for the new bestiary that Nicholas keeps hinting at. There have been quite a few monsters published via the guild companion so far which would widen the range available.
I cannot help but make comparisons with RMU. The monsters are built in the same way, starting with a playable race, they all have skills and they all have a raft of talents to represent their unique features.
HARP gets 35 monsters in 8 pages, so about 4 per page. If a RMU Creature Law had a similar density then a 200 page book would showcase something like 800 creatures with basically the same overhead of having to define the creature talents. There is clearly the same design logic going on in both games. So is the 600 page Creature Law, and that is without art whereas HARP has art included in the page count, just trying to do too much? Does it need 52 pages of small print to fit all the talents in?
So that is HARPs core set of monsters.