Of all the features of HARP that stand out, it is the magic system that seems to get the most admiration.
There are some similarities with Rolemaster but a lot of differences.
Most obvious is that there are no realms. There are two suggested sources of magic in the core book although more are hinted at in College of Mogics. These two are Divine and Personal.
HARP also describes spheres. There is a universal sphere which would be roughly the same as our ‘open’ lists. Then there are professional spheres. The ones in the core book are Cleric, Harper, Mage, Ranger and Warrior Mage. So Professional Spheres are basically our ‘Base’ lists, but without the list.
Ever spell is learned individually so there are no lists. If a spell takes 5 power points to cast then you need five ranks in that spell. So spells are learned just like skills and you buy ranks in your spells as you level up.
Taking that 5 powerpoint spell as an example casting it with 5 powerpoints will just get you the basic spell. As your ranks improve then you can do more with the same spell. This is similar to a list that has Light I, Light II, Light III and then Light True. They are basically the same spell but they are doing more by using more power points.
Rolemaster has lots of spell classificataions such as elemental (no resistance roll), force (resistance roll allowed), utility (cannot be cast on an unwilling target) and so on. HARP has three classifications. These are Utility, Attack and Elemental.
Utility spells encompass things like healing and what RM players would consider a utility spell. These cannot be cast on unwilling characters and it is the recipient or target of the spell that gets to decide if the spell works or not.
Attack spells cover all attacking spells that do not fall into the Elemental category.
Elemental, these are almost identical to RM elemental spells in resolution.
Basic spell casting in HARP requires the ability to move at least one hand and to be able to speak in a normal voice. If you cannot do that then you cannot cast the spell.
This is the big feature of HARP magic. Each basic spell has a menu of options. Each option on the menu has a cost in power points. So if you want to increase the range for example then you can spend more power points on casting the spell and you get the added range. As long as you have enough power points and ranks in the spell then you can mix and match options to tailor your spells.
Here is an example spell from the universal sphere.
PP Cost: 3
Spell Type: Attack
Description: When cast, this spell sends a bolt of blazing magical energy to strike the target. This bolt of energy does 1d10 points of damage to the foe if he fails his Resistance Roll.
Increase Damage (each 1d10 hits– 5d10 max) +3 PP
Stunning Force (per round of Stun) +4 PP
Increase Range (per +50’) +1 PP
Increase Targets (each additional target) +4 PP
This is very different to a Rolemaster spell! This reminds me of casting a D&D fireball but with rolling a handful of d10s rather than a bucket of d6s. This is really the HARP version of Shockbolt but to me at least it looks a lot more fun.
Transcending armour is also handled by increasing power point costs. The heavier your armour then the greater the cost of the spell to cast. The rational being something along the lines of the armour acting as a sink for the magic.
This is another excellent feature. If an enemy caster is casting a spell then you can cast an instantaneous counter spell. Here is the description of the mechanic:
In the Universal Sphere, there is an instantaneous spell
named Counterspell. It is used to counter and disrupt a spell
being cast by another spell user during the actual casting of
The spell user who is casting the Counterspell makes his
casting roll and then looks up the result on the RR column
of the Maneuver Table. The spell user, whose spell is being
countered, must then roll higher than this number with his
casting roll or the spell is countered, and he loses all Power
Points that he has put into the spell.
I really like that. RM has that whole power projection skill thing and in all my years of gaming no one has ever used it. HARP’s counter spell on the other hand I can easily see being a regular feature. Of course it doesn’t mean you can stymy an enemy caster every time but it does mean you can at least do something. Counterspell costs 1PP to cast.
Casting times are based around 3 rounds. If you cast faster than that then you take a -20 to your spell casting roll and in applicable a +10 to your fumble. You can also take longer than necessary to cast a spell to get a bonus to your spell casting roll.
All in all you probably get 90% of what we get in Spell Law in a well laid out 32 pages. What at first glance appeared to pretty basic actually has a lot of flavour and variety. I am pretty sure that HARP players reading this will tell us that there are loads more spells and spheres in College of Magics but I don’t own that so I cannot comment but it goes without saying.
Next time I am going to cover two chapters, Herbs & Poisons and Encounters & Monsters.