HârnWorld: An Interview with Grant Dalgliesh

Grant Dalgliesh of Columbia Games was kind enough to talk to me about the 40th anniversary hardcover edition of HârnWorld .

Hârn is a fantasy world of breathtaking depth. Player characters can experience life on the ground from encountering individual knights in manor houses all the way up to sweeping conflicts between warring kingdoms. Grant Dalgliesh of Columbia Games was kind enough to talk to me about the 40th anniversary hardcover edition of HârnWorld as well as send me a copy which I’ll cover in more depth in a later article.

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Charles Dunwoody (CD): Thanks for talking with me, Grant. Please provide a short pitch about Hârn for a gamemaster who knows little to nothing about the setting.
Grant Dalgliesh (GD):
HârnWorld is a medieval, system-neutral fantasy role-playing game setting that has been enjoyed by thousands of players worldwide for over 40 years. The setting is designed to be flexible and accommodate a wide variety of character and campaign styles, from high fantasy to dark and realistic. HârnWorld is a vast and detailed world, with over a million words in print and 4,500 pages of published material. The setting is constantly being expanded and updated, with new material released every few months. The creators of HârnWorld believe that the best stories are the ones that GMs and players create themselves. That's why HârnWorld is designed to be a blank canvas, where players can put their own imaginations to work. The setting provides the foundation, but it's up to the players to tell the story. We like to say that HârnWorld allows YOU to tell a fantastic story. We’ve done all the work; you get all the credit.

CD: There are dozens (hundreds?) of tabletop RPG fantasy world settings. What makes Hârn stand out and why might a GM consider running campaigns there?
GD:
HârnWorld is presented as a realistic world which is distinguished by its level of detail. For example, the planet Kethira, on which HârnWorld is located, has a complex tectonic history that has resulted in a variety of different landforms and climates. The large-scale details of HârnWorld are fully fleshed out, such as the planet's wind and ocean currents and star chart which includes over 100 constellations, each with its own mythology and significance. These are complemented by more intricate details, such as the medieval society and economy and varying cultures with uniquely detailed histories and languages. Even the smallest details are considered, such as the names and biographies of non-player characters (NPCs). Game masters who enjoy worldbuilding or dungeon crafting will find HârnWorld to be a treasure trove of inspiration. The level of detail in the setting allows them to create truly immersive and believable adventures for their players of all levels of experience.

CD: What tools are provided to help GMs create adventures and build campaigns in Hârn?
GD:
The HârnWorld books are dripping with adventure hooks and inspiration, both obvious and hidden. The combination of intriguing NPCs with inspiring motives and a rich history provides endless possibilities for GM campaigns. We believe in giving GMs the freedom to create their own stories, so we don't "box them in" with specific plot lines with planned outcomes. Instead, we provide a vast and expansive environment to play in. There are several "one-off" adventures available, but these always include setting material that is useful for any campaign. The historical timeline of Hârn deliberately ends with the “present day” of the medieval setting. This means that GMs can choose how the many imminent events might unfold, without worrying about contradicting anything that has been published by Columbia Games. Nor will Columbia Games contradict your timeline later.

CD: For a GM wanting to start a new campaign in Hârn, what location do you recommend and how would that location help kick off new adventures?
GD:
The Hârn setting is a vast and diverse world, with a myriad of cultures to explore. If you're new to Hârn, we recommend starting with the master module, HârnWorld. This book provides an overview of the entire setting, including the amazing map of Hârn and the Hârndex, an annotated encyclopedic index. Once you've gotten a feel for Hârn, you can then choose a specific kingdom or region to focus on. Each kingdom has its own unique culture and history, so there's sure to be one that's perfect for you. We recommend picking a culture that is intriguing to you and your players. With everything from medieval feudal kingdoms, mystical druidic forests, Viking lands, theocracies, a quasi-Roman republic, and more, there is something for everyone. In addition to the standard fantasy races, such as elves and dwarves, Hârn also features a variety of unique but plausible creatures designed so that they can be integral or mythical. No matter what kind of adventure you're looking for, you can find it on Hârn. The individual Kingdom/culture books also include a few local sites such as a city or castle where the story can begin to unfold. When your players venture off to a new area, you can confidently describe it without skipping a beat. The Columbia Games website offers a wealth of resources to help you get started in Hârn. You can find maps, character generators or campaign manager software, and even step-by-step guidance on how to create your own adventure at Columbia Games HârnWorld.

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CD: What is your favorite place to kick off a campaign in Hârn and why?
GD:
I enjoy using Kaldor, a feudal realm with a weak and ailing king, for a "Game of Thrones" style political intrigue campaign. The Kaldor book includes guidance on how to play out the "Kaldoric Succession Crisis," as well as many other stories. This book also includes the city of Tashal, an important economic hub with trade routes connected to all corners of Hârn and a vibrant summer fair. Tashal is populated with all of the expected craftsmen and merchants of a medieval city, but there are also many buildings left open for the GM to populate as desired. This kingdom and city alone provide a plethora of campaign options. Kaldor is just one of dozens of cultures represented. I am also personally fascinated by the Viking realm of Orbaal, where 8,000 war-like Ivinians suppress 60,000 rebellious natives. An uprising that occurred 20 years ago was brutally crushed, but the next uprising is imminent. This leaves an opening for a series of adventures from both sides of the conflict.

CD: Setting aside HârnMaster, which I’ll return to in another interview, what are some RPGs that work best in Hârn and why?
GD:
Although many of our customers use HârnWorld with D&D, Pathfinder, or FATE, it is a system-neutral setting that can be used with any gaming system. I’d say that systems that focus on character development and storytelling are the best fit for HârnWorld.

CD: Besides HârnWorld itself, are there any other books you recommend a GM get next to get started in Hârn?
GD:
Some essential resources for Hârn are:
  • HârnManor: Our world is a mostly rural, agrarian economy, making manors the backbone of Hârn. This book provides information and insight into how manors work, as well as four usable manors, and rules to develop your own manor.
  • HârnMaster Religion: This book explores the pervasive role of religion in Hârnic culture. It covers the 10 churches of Hârn, as well as the two or three dominant faiths. No campaign is complete without accessing many of the religious details we offer.
  • HârnWorld Bestiary: This resource describes many unique and fantastical Hârnic creatures. It's a great resource for spicing up your campaign.
  • Araka-Kalai: This book details the monsters of Hârn that are created by the god Ilvir. Ilvir crafts a myriad of creatures for sport, and his "monster factory" allows GMs the freedom to innovate and import their favorite beasties. However, Ilvir's creations are barren, and their souls are "recycled" when they die. This provides a finite control on the mayhem they unleash.
  • Many other resources: There are many other resources available for Hârn, including books on heraldry, herblore, and more. Economically minded GMs will revel in the guild structure presented on Hârn These resources can help you enhance the realism and depth of your story.
CD: Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
GD:
If you're looking for a fantasy role-playing game setting that is both detailed and flexible, then HârnWorld is the perfect choice for you. With its rich history, diverse cultures, and endless possibilities, HârnWorld is the setting where your next great adventure awaits.
 

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

patrakis

Explorer
This is the new setting and ruleset i've adopted since leaving the D&D bandwagon this spring. I've returned to my roots with a more realistic setting that removes the hyper fantasy Marvel D&D thats seems to be the way to go now days. I've been reading the Harnworld books since the 80s and now i'm gonna play in it. Very exciting.
 

This is the new setting and ruleset i've adopted since leaving the D&D bandwagon this spring. I've returned to my roots with a more realistic setting that removes the hyper fantasy Marvel D&D thats seems to be the way to go now days. I've been reading the Harnworld books since the 80s and now i'm gonna play in it. Very exciting.
Have you decided where in Hârn you are going to start?
 

patrakis

Explorer
I'm developping a new campaign centered around the arrival of a mysterious new mercenary company on the isle of Harn. The campaign is called The Dark Brotherhood and it's inspired by the novels called the Black Company from Glen Cook. The campaign begins between Azadmere and Kaldor where the players will be involved in the reconstruction of an important bridge between the two nations.
 


patrakis

Explorer
I could do that if you think it's of any interest. I would like to support my campaign with a web site if i find the time to create and feed it, but could drop a line or two in these fine halls of gaming :) I'll keep this link close by. Thanks for your interest.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I just looked Harnmaster up based on today's news item. It looks great, right up my alley in fact. I also noticed that prices on the pdfs seem considerably higher than average for a comparable product. Anyone have an idea why that is?
 

dbolack

Adventurer
I just looked Harnmaster up based on today's news item. It looks great, right up my alley in fact. I also noticed that prices on the pdfs seem considerably higher than average for a comparable product. Anyone have an idea why that is?
Harn's always been very niche of the niche, but honestly, there is work in there that is unrivaled.
 

patrakis

Explorer
I just looked Harnmaster up based on today's news item. It looks great, right up my alley in fact. I also noticed that prices on the pdfs seem considerably higher than average for a comparable product. Anyone have an idea why that is?
I don't know the reasoning behind the pricing policy of CG on their PDFs, but the thing i did to cut it by half was to subscribe to their harnquest program. You get all the new stuff they design automatically 4 times a year for 19,99 $ (each time for about 32 pages of content), and you can buy back any PDF article on their site for 50 % off.
 
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