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.
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!