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!

Character Stories

This is not about what you think it is going to be about.

The experience rules in RMU and in HARP offer experience for minor and major personal goals (HARP) or Minor, Moderate and Major personal events (RMU).

So as a GM how do you know when your players’ characters has achieved a personal goal or event? Where is the break point between Moderate and Major events (other than on page 107 of the beta rules). Will you remember to account for these or in the case of minor events can you even count all of these?

I know there are loads of alternative experience systems from count every PP used and hit taken to you level up when I tell you. I was recently very kindly given a copy of the 7th Sea Second Edition rules. 7th Sea is a game I really like but is worlds away from Rolemaster. There is almost no cross over between the two systems for example 7th Sea heroes can take out many thugs in a single turn but no attack is ever fatal. In RM if you faced six thugs at once on your own, whatever level you are you have to seriously consider the consequences of that one freak open ended attack and possible critical.

I said there is ‘almost’ no cross over. 7th Sea doesn’t have levels or experience points. Characters progress by being awarded skill increases or other bump ups in individual traits. What is interesting here though is the concept of Character Stories. So when you create your character you also create the start of a character story. Most of us already do this as part of our character back story. The difference here is that although there is a clear end goal, such as avenge your father’s death or clear your name, you only create the very first step or task to achieve that goal. So your story may be “Clear your name from a crime you didn’t commit” but step one is “find the name of your accuser”. So imagine this a just a title and a single bullet point below. During the role play you may well find the name of your accuser so then the next step is of course to find that man and question him. So now you have a second bullet point. The GM always has a clear idea of where each character is in their background stories, things that he or she can weave into the game session and from a RM point of view when Minor, Moderate and Major personal events have happened.

I think this is a really simple mechanism that brings together a method of making characters’ back stories really relevant the characters future, it helps the GM keep those stories straight and it dovetails nicely with the new experience rules.

I am never one to pass up a good idea when I see one! If you are interested in 7th Sea then there is a single volume core rulebook (just the sort of thing that RMU needs 🙂 ) on RPGnow for about $25.

RMU – to infinity and beyond!

There was a comment to my last post that read:

The challenge I see with RMU as opposed to RM2 is the apparent lack of willingness to look beyond fantasy (and even then it’s their definition of fantasy). RM has always suffered (IMO) from the lack of a solid, accessible setting, and RMU just seems to accelerate that trend. They also took steps (especially in the combat system) to render it almost useless for non-magic settings if you leave it RAW. The flexibility that came with RM2 (and even RMSS in its own way) seems to be disappearing.

In addition in a recent comment Hurin had noted the amount of HARP that seems to have found its way into RMU. There is nothing wrong with HARP but HARP is not Rolemaster and definitely not RM2!

That got me thinking. Last year I bought HARP Fantasy and HARP SF. I bought them because I want to run a SF game soon and as I have said many times before I have lost my Spacemaster books.

So HARP is certainly not locked into a fantasy setting and not into one single fantasy setting. Shadow World is statted out for HARP and HARP has its own core setting of Cyradon. HARP SF plays out in Tintamar but by default it also shares the same setting as Kulthea and Spacemaster because of the Shadow World connection.

One of the things I like about HARP is that the last release was to truly unify the fantasy and sf rules and make them interchangeable. I only needed the fantasy rules as monsters make great aliens.

There is a massive gulf between RM2 and HARP and I agree there is a lot of HARP in RMU. The skill system is the same, character creation is very similar. The move in RMU to less combat tables is almost a single step towards the HARP way of thinking and that I think is the problem with RMU. The only weakness as I see it with HARP, looking from a RM background point of view, is the combat system and the criticals in particular. The same old critical comes around again and again way too often and even in the same fight. The rest of the combat system works really nicely as far as I can tell.

Another interesting thing is that the HARP forums are far busier than the RM forums if you exclude the BETA test forums. If you include them then you also need to include the HARP development forums as well. I see a far greater variety of voices in the HARP debates than in the RM ones these days. There is an active HARP community around the game and new HARP books are eagerly awaited,even if most of them are just re-releases to bring them in line with the unified Fantasy/SF rules.

Whether HARP’s firearms are as good as intothatdarkness’s firearms is a completely different question but the fact remains that HARP does have viable settings and it does have modern day and SF elements that make it go well beyond the fantasy genre.

I think RMU is trying to learn from HARP but is struggling to take the old guard with it to some extent. Which is a pity as we are the old guard.

An exciting New Year for Rolemaster

I just read Nicholas Caldwell’s directors briefing January 2016. Is really exciting to see that RMU won’t be going to a third beta but rather straight to a draft edition of the final rules. The draft edition should be there just for us to catch any missing tables spelling mistakes typos that sort of thing. It will be cool to see how the final rules I’m sure they will not have satisfied all of the people who are not happy with how the rules frankly I don’t think that was possible anyway, we have all modified our own versions rolemaster and no new edition that ever satisfy everybody.

I am interested to see how RNU stacks up against HARP. I’ve been really impressed with HARP so far as the criticism of the entire system is that the critical tables a little thin, the same critical, again and again. But it is not difficult just to create your own alternative criticals..

I normally try to play with rules as written but with a completely new set of what none of my players have played this would be really good time to try a customised game. I have always been tempted to play again based on a mix of rolemaster hero system and runequest to create a level-less experience-less classless system. I think the way that RMU does the character skills is perfect for what I have in mind.

I think I need to buy a couple more HARP rulebooks and build some of the key NPC’s first and then try and recreate the using the RMU rules when they are available. Hopefully the comparison will tell me if my hybrid idea will work. If it turns out I wanted to it should look and feel exactly like rolemaster but with a damn sight less hunting through pages of books to find 1,000,001 obscure tables.
This is one of those things that HARP does so well with the entire core system coming in at well under 250 pages. I’ll be amazed if RMU comes in under 2 1/2 thousand pages just for the core books. Admittedly they are different beasts but at the end of the day they are both only frameworks but all GM’s can use to create their own worlds, adventures and tell the story.

What I do need to do first of all is buy HARP SF.

Who is Unified Rolemaster (RMU) For?

Rolemaster Logo

This week Nicholas Caldwell published the October Director’s Briefing. I seriously recommend reading it if you are interested in any form of Rolemaster.

I think you should never be afraid of people who challenge your ideas or disagree with you. In business we say you will learn more from a single customer complaint than from 100 positive reviews. I love Rolemaster and think it is the best fantasy roleplaying game of all time (so far) and the second best rpg rules system across any genre. I have played a lot of games, as I am sure you all have. I also think Nicholas Caldwell is somewhat wrong in his conclusions of the right target audience for RMU.

It was me that asserted ICE needs RMU (http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/index.php?topic=16590.msg201402#msg201402) in the original discusion for all the reasons that he quite rightly outlines. You cannot expect the company to support so many incompatible systems. That I agree with. I think that RMU should be developed first and foremost to attract new players into the RM world.

Here is my reasoning.

As the briefing states trying to perform the balancing act between the wants of the two existing systems requires compromises. Trying to balance the needs of three groups, the RM2ers, the RMSS (that sounds sinister doesn’t it?) and completely new players is an even harder balancing act. You do not need to worry about us old hands. The truth is that all that is going to happen is from two factions you will get three factions, RM2, RMSS and RMU. In the same way that in the D&D world there are still people playing 1st Edition AD&D today when the current version is 5th Edition so you will still have your RM2 players playing RM2 after RMU is released. So trying to unify the audience into a single market will not work.

Secondly if you completely ignored the existing players and just made the best possible new Rolemaster then those people who are starved of new RM material will buy in. Some people jumped from RM2 to RMSS and some jumped from RM2 to RMC. A proportion of those will adopt RMU just because it is RM and it is NEW.

If you just make the best possible Rolemaster, then by extension, you will attract more new players. I defy anyone to argue that ‘the best possible Rolemaster’ will be in anyway inferior to ‘the best possible compromise between all old versions of Rolemaster’.

In the Director’s Briefing he says “Gamers who like very rules-lite systems or cannot abide detail are unlikely to play any edition of Rolemaster.” the flaw in this argument is that I am both 100% committed to Rolemaster (I am a volunteer editor for the Guild Companion, frequent contributor to the ICE forums and one of the few RM bloggers.) and I am one of those people who like very rules-lite systems. Maybe I am the exception that proves the rule or maybe the designers do not like rules-lite systems so assume that the players are like themselves? Who knows.

It is true that targeting the existing players is the easiest audience for ICE to reach but ‘easiest’ is both subjective and relative. How hard is any audience to reach these days? There are 550+ followers of the Shadow World facebook page. A single status update about the release of the new version could reach more people than habitually visit the ICE website (the busiest day ever on the ICE forum saw 276 people). A copy of the game sent to the top games websites for review can reach tens of thousands of roleplayers who have never even seen a RM rulebook. If the game is designed from the ground up for the ‘new to RM’ audience the barrier to entry will be extremely low. Building for the existing userbase is like taking an extremely short ladder into an orchard. Yes it works great while you are picking the low hanging fruit but once that is all gone you have a much harder job on your hands and your early decision is now a  hinderance.

I would send a press release to the top gaming websites asking for beta testers with the only qualification being that they have not played any version of RM in the last 10 years. That would give you a completely different kind of feedback to what we are seeing right now. It may bring lost players back into the RM world. It will definitely give free publicity to ICE and ICE’s products. I would be extremely tempted to create a closed forum just for these ‘new to the fold’ beta testers so they do not get shouted down ‘because they do not know how to play Rolemaster’.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I have never written a game or published a game. I admire everything that has been done so far. I am only writing this because I want RMU to be a raging success. There are something like 7million roleplayers out there and probably 6+million have never had the pleasure of experiencing Rolemaster. I just want the next Rolemaster to be the best possible Rolemaster.

I am a commercial animal at heart and I would love to know ICE’s marketing plans, the market research they did before starting work and how they intend to reach those 7million potential customers. Somehow I don’t think they will let me in on the secret(s) though for which I cannot blame them. I am in no way affiliated with ICE.

My final comment is this. I think I said in that ‘target audience’ thread that I will not be buying RMU. The truth is that, as I have written before, the beta test has made me reevaluate what I thought about all aspects of the different RM rules and options. As a consequence I have gone out and bought HARP. I would not have bought that if it wasn’t for the beta test. Another example is that I was against the game concept of Talents and Flaws but now I get them. RMU is not finished and it is foolish to say ‘I haven’t even seen the finished game but I am not going to like it whatever you do’. That is not what I meant or how I meant it. What I meant was that at that precise moment there were elements of the game that, for me, were what Nicholas refers to as deal breakers. That was then, RMU is the future.

Fate Points

Rolemaster Logo

I have ever used Fate Points in a game before. I have mooted them to the players and generally the reception was not particularly possitive. As a consequence I had never really sat down and read the rules around them. They are not part of the core RM2 or RMC rules but I was familiar enough with the concept and the role they fulfilled.

There are times when you just do not want to fail that moving maneuver roll.

Last night I read the High Adventure Roleplaying (HARP) rules on Fate Points and I do think they are a good thing. It appears they are designed to help shove the story along where it would otherwise have stalled. Take for example the idea the the party have to resuce the princess from some deep underground orc fortress. The party come to a fissure in the tunnel floor and decide to jump it but the princess has swooned into the fighters arms some time ago and has not yet revived. The fighter takes a firm grip on her and leaps the fissure, and fumbles his roll. Dp you let the character and the princess fall to their doom?

In my game, yes I would. I would let him make a couple of other rolls to try and catchhol of some outcrop of rock and if he failed all of them I would have the pair of them crash into some ledge and take the appropriate damage. With Fate Points the player could choose to burn a couple of points and boost that leaping roll until he makes it. The player only starts with 3 points so you will not have the players skewing rolls all over the place but the onus is then on them to save their characters and not on me or you as GM to get them out of their predicament.

If they are on the ledge 100′ below the passageway with their escape just discovered by the orcs the party had better come up with a decent rescue plan pretty quickly. If they don’t then as a GM you could find yourself having to invent a new passageway along which they fighter and princess can escape. It could all unravel fairly fast if they are just having one of those bad dice rolling days. With Fate Points, the jump was made and the party escape, the princess was rescued and disaster averted and the universe did not have to be bent to save anyone.

I like the idea that the players have a distinctly limited supply and that although when they level up they can replenish them they can never have more than 5 in total.

I think in my face to face game this is pretty much happening already. There seems to me to be a fair amount of rolling the dice and then deciding which one is tens after the event. A practice highlighted a couple of years ago when one of the players accidentally picked up a D8 and a D10. He designated the D8 as the ‘tens’ and then managed to roll several open ended rolls during the session. Fate was truly on his side that day.

I generally do not live in fear of killing characters. I do not go out of the way to do it but I do normally give the players some sort of access to Life Keeping and Life Giving magic through either single use items, access to an NPC or herbs. There is a double punishment in there with the dead characters player now being on Tea Duty and there being some loss of assets to the party.

I was going to ask how people felt about Fate Points but I guess that those that like them will be using them and those that like me didn’t like the idea don’t use them and very few will have wavered between to two camps. I am defintely going to try them in the next game I run that is for sure.