What is HARP?

As you’re here, I know you’re familiar with Rolemaster, and I’m here to tell you about HARP.  HARP stands for High Adventure Role Playing, and while it shares many things with RM it is its own game.

Currently, HARP has six books available: Fantasy, SF, SF Xtreme,  College of Magics, Martial Law, and Folkways. You can run fantasy games with just the core book if you want to, but for science fiction you really need both SF and  SF Xtreme.

HARP Similarities to RM

  • d100/percentile dice based with open ending
  • Modular: the mentioned expansion books for fantasy
  • Brutal and amusing critical hits and fumbles

HARP Differences from RM

  • Eight stats instead of ten.
  • Your attack roll is your critical roll, reducing dice rolling.
  • Critical tables are by damage type rather than by weapon, reducing the amount of time it takes to look up a critical result. They also top out at rolls of 120, instant death criticals, so it is much easier to top the charts.
  • Rather than learning a spell list associated with their profession, casters can alter their spells during casting.  This comes with an increased casting time, power point cost, and an increasing casting penalty the more  scaling options the caster wants to use. Each spell is learned as a skill that the caster must have enough ranks for number of power points used in the spell for all scaling options. Characters will have to take casting penalties into account to scale their spells to cast while wearing armor.
  • To create a mixed race/species or genetically adapted character, the player must purchase the Genetic Adaptation talent once or twice, one Greater Blood Talent, or exactly two Lesser Blood Talents.
  • Choosing a character’s culture gives adolescent skills and is a great starting point for character backgrounds.


If you’re a fan of RM and sometimes want something lighter, give HARP a spin. Or if you’re interested in RM but it seems too daunting, give HARP a go.

6 Replies to “What is HARP?”

  1. Thanks for the breakdown, Bjorn! HARP *has* intrigued me, mostly because of recent discussions in game design. I myself am using MERP (as Character Law, in essence) with Arms Law and Spell Law tacked on.

    If you will entertain a follow up question, what precisely do you mean by “your attack roll is your critical roll, reducing dice rolling”? Do you mean that *one* table determines *all* attack results (as, I believe, Peter recently suggested)? Or is this one roll applied (if necessary) to two charts? The answer has interesting implications in game design.

    1. Most of the critical charts are by damage type. There are exceptions for fighting against robots (they take damage differently) and personal/vehicle/capital class matrices. So, how well you hit determines how much damage you do, with adjustments for weapon size and critical caps.

      Certain weapons do more than one type of damage in a single attack. All grenades do a Small Impact in addition to their main damage, and warheads do Heat and Shrapnel against organics, if I’m remembering correctly.

  2. I have HARP Fantasy, SF and Folkways in the newest versions. Are College of Magic and Martial Law being redone do you know or are they already fully updated to the latest version of HARP?

    1. To the best of my own knowledge, only the fully updated versions are the ones for sale.

      There’s also HARP Loot and with regards to Folkways, a lot of it is actually usable with any system, not just HARP.

    2. I know there is a lot of errata for both College of Magics and Martial Law. Some of the missing information was provided to ICE through their forums by me.

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