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Harnmaster...a more mature and complex rpg?

MrHemlocks

Banned
Banned
Anyone have any experiance with Harnmaster rpg? Looking over the website this game looks like it was made for mature adults and have a decent amount of complex rules. It seems to have a very strong following and continues to pump out new items.

Comparing games such as Harnmaster to AD&D is like comparing apples to oranges. I like both :lol:

http://www.columbiagames.com/harn/
 

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pming

Legend
Hiya.

Yup. Played in a friends campaign until he kicked me and my wife out (long story short...he took it far to seriously as a "realistic medieval game" without absorbing the fact that magic actually works, the gods are real, monsters creep in dark caves, etc.). Anyway, for the few months we played, it was quite a bit of fun! It definitely has a *strong* "medieval society" feel.

Combat is quite interesting, where you choose how you want to attack and how you want to defend, 'secretly', then reveal and check your rolls. Armor makes a HUGE difference...a knight in chain & plate, with a shield and a broadsword, can easily take on a dozen irate farmers with pitchforks; while a bandit in leather jerkin is pretty much dead after the first pitchfork stab.

Magic is interesting in that it has 6 "convocations" (with names like "Lyahvi", "Jmorvi", "Savorya", etc.). Each convocation has magic that it is good at, ok at, and not so good at. You have a small'ish selection of spells, but with the supplements and whatnot, there is a nice wide range.

Skills/checks are basically a d100 roll and you can get Critical Success, Moderate Success, Moderate Failure or Critical Failure. Simple, yet varied. It's a nice system that plays smoothly.

Balance. If you are coming from a "3e/4e" mindset, prepare to be completely lost and confused. It is *not* "balanced" in that way. If you are a knight, you have a *huge* advantage. If you are a Shek-Pvar (wizard), you have power and respect...and fear/condemnation. If you are a farmer...well, you're a farmer, so don't expect to be as 'capable' as a trained knight or even a barbarian warrior. As long as you and your players realize that the world of Harn (and thus, HarnMaster) is focused on the role-playing aspect of "what if you were in medieval times, but magic, the gods and monsters were real?"...and not the aspect of "you're a hero, destined to slay dragons, conquer kingdoms and attain godhood!", you'll all have a blast.

Community. It's a bit..."odd". If you ask a question that can't easily be answered by looking in the history books (real history books, of Earth, y'know, 'real life') and extrapolating...forget about it. You'll either be berated (rarely), ignored (likely), or be given a "non-answer" (e.g., Q: "Does a Shek-Pvar casting a spell in town constitute a breach of law?"; A: "Well, it's magic and that's what they do." ...Q: "Yeah, but does it break some sort of 'law'?": A: "Well, it is magic after all"...Q:"Right. But will my character be burned as a witch or something? Can I get a 'permit'?"; A: "Hmmm. He's a Shek-Pvar. They cast magic." ...repeat ad nasium). In short, the community...at least when I last was part of it 15 years or so ago...is very keen and eager to answer questions that have "real-life" written all over it from a historical perspective. But questions that bring the focus towards the "game" or "fantasy" part of Harn tend to confuse them.

Anyway, yes, I'd recommend giving it a shot at least. Just make *sure* your players realise it's focus is on "simulating a realistic world based on actual medieval history, with magic/monsters/gods as background". If they go into it thinking like a D&D player, you are all in for a world of hurt and disappointment.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Jhaelen

First Post
I'd never play Harnmaster. I hate the rules. The system is more complex than Rolemaster!
The background and setting material, however is stellar. My advice: Use the setting but pick a different rule set.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
I ran a rather short Hârnmaster campaign 20 years back with the first edition rules, but what Paul writes sounds very familiar.

What drew me in back then was the seemingly powerful set of rules and Hârn as fascinating game world. Rules and world together set the stage for some deep immersion gaming as the characters are deeply rooted in the world and all the sites and people they encounter have a pretty real feel to them.

The pre-game for character generation is fantastic. Players and/or GM select the kingdom where they were born, randomly roll-up mountains of game data, and are let loose at the age of 12-14 (?). The playerthan makes a sequence of fundamental decisions: most characters are born unfree, so the first decision is whether to stay with the family or try to break the bonds of servitutde, e.g., by fleeing to a city. Having reached the city (how did the lord react to this? What happens to the character's family?) with all the skills of a 12 year old son of an unfree farmer, how does he survive the year? Without the money to pay for apprenticeship? Anf or course Hârnish cities are quite different from each other...

The end result is a ready-to-play character with a profound history and a matching skill-set. Weapon skills? Not so much. If he achieved some acceptance, he might have to take turns on the city wall and learn some skills like Spear, but that's about it. And he's probably dirt-poor.

Another notable different to the D&D way of doing things is the combat system. It is very detailled and offers lots of chances to lose, even if you win the fight. The first combat encounter I ran was a chance meeting with a brown bear, not a dire grizzly, mind you, but an ordinary brown bear. The party managed to oust the bear, but one of them hobbled forever after due to a single blow to the leg. And with such a detailled system, hobbling really has some detrimental influence on a lot of skills. At least nobody died of gangrene...

In short, we decided that Hârnmaster didn't feel heroic enough for us to run a longer campaign. As far as I know the rules never jumped on the easy-to-use and elegant bandwagon, but the main difference is one of style. Hârnmaster supports a pseudo-medieval style of gaming with a heavy dose of faux realism.

Think of the movie Braveheart. In D&D mode, the characters would be Braaveheart himself or his companions. In Hârnmaster they would be any of the hundreds of extras on the battlefile. 'They might do heroic things, but no-one will write a song about them.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
it takes a special person to play or run Harnmaster. Never liked it, combats were long and system I thought had issues to the point of unplayable.
 

Ketherian

Explorer
Hi.
I'm currently running a HarnMaster III campaign; and yes - I've done this before. Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of the system, and have written for Columbia Games & been involved in official rule rewrites. BTW - I'm also a D&D/Pathfinder fan.

HarnMaster (like pretty much any role playing system) is pretty flexible. The traditional game is one of low-magic, no divine intervention, and poverty, as Jan van Leyden described previously. Since I like playing "heroic" games, the parties tend to include a fair number of knights/soldiers more than farmers/serfs; and everyone is born free. My current campaign features a bunch of Laranians (two young knights, a yeoman, a priest, and a cook) in a small coastal town who solve mysteries (two murders and a kidnapping thus far). Not your typical scenario, I grant you, but we're enjoying it.

The base system is skill based. An average of three stats (plus a small bonus based on your character's astrological symbol) make up the base for any skill. The more you use a skill, the better you get at it. I like how there's reason behind a character's advancement (whereas in D&D and Pathfinder there really isn't).

I've heard HandOfEvil and Jan van Leyden's arguments against the system before. It's true - it's not for everyone. But to me the rules are pretty straightforward. What throws most people though is that it's not damage you track in combat so much as fatigue. You accrue fatigue with every action and with damage. To set up the character sheet is a bit math-heavy, but once done, it's just a matter of keeping track of fatigue. Get too much - roll xd6 against your endurance. Fail? Fall unconscious. Succeed? Stay standing. Since it's not as linear as hit points, it can generate "die hard" events where the PC just keeps taking and dishing out the damage without falling. Since the game is realistic, they will pay for this later (healing is slow and hard without magic).

The community is ... well, it's a community. There are good folk amongst it who will try to help whenever they can. And then there's the unhelpful folk. Everyone's got an opinion (or two...); but it is an active community. The forums see a ton of traffic and there's a lot of fan-written articles available for download from lythia.com.

So, if you have a specific question about the system or the background, and don't like the result you're getting on the HarnForums (and I miss your post there), ask here -- I'd be happy to help out.

The short answer (TL;DR): Yes I run HM3 in its own background, and I like it. Ask me questions. :D
 
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Balesir

Adventurer
I, too, play, run and enjoy HM a great deal (hi, Ketherian!). It's not even a tiny bit like D&D - it wasn't intended to be and it can be really painful trying to make it be that way. As a "world exploration as a member of the world's society" game, though, it's great.

I'm pretty leery of calling it "mature" - I think D&D can be played in a pretty mature way, as can most RPGs. I'm not sure such a claim has much meaning. But it does create resolutions that are much more "messy" and ambiguous than many other RPGs, and that can make the game world feel a lot more "real" and interesting to explore.

Oh, and to the person asking "is casting magic in towns legal"? It depends on the jurisdiction and law enforcement of the precise place you are casting, but in general, not as such... The law in many places is that "the casting of inimical spells and disposing of souls" are illegal; other types of magic are legal. The issue will be, however, that it relies far more on how witnesses perceive your actions than on any "scientific" facts about what you did. Bear in mind that most of the witnesses will be utterly ignorant about "Pvaric Philosophy" and such like; you can go ahead and cast, but you might be courting disaster unless you are very guarded indeed...

P.S. - to echo Ketherian, please feel free to ask questions!
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
I've heard HandOfEvil and Jan van Leyden's arguments against the system before. It's true - it's not for everyone. But to me the rules are pretty straightforward. What throws most people though is that it's not damage you track in combat so much as fatigue. You accrue fatigue with every action and with damage. To set up the character sheet is a bit math-heavy, but once done, it's just a matter of keeping track of fatigue. Get too much - roll xd6 against your endurance. Fail? Fall unconscious. Succeed? Stay standing. Since it's not as linear as hit points, it can generate "die hard" events where the PC just keeps taking and dishing out the damage without falling. Since the game is realistic, they will pay for this later (healing is slow and hard without magic).

You've caught my interest. That sounds so much better than hit points.
 



Balesir

Adventurer
until you play the game and your character is know as the guy that falls down. :eek: Trust me, they will. :cool:
In HM2 that is pretty apt, but the system is tunable to a good degree. The basic idea is just that injuries are not things that take away resource from a pool of "life" (except for bleeding, which actually does take away from a 'pool' of blood), but is something nasty that attaches to your character and provides limitations, dangers and potential long-lasting reduction in ability (lowered attributes).

But, yeah - dashing into regular conflicts will mean you get hurt a lot. That will happen.
 

Ketherian

Explorer
Glad we caught your interest Mishihari Lord; the game can be combat rich and full of daring do. Or at least, mine is.

I ran a combat-based game for many years. If your players have the armor, you can withstand a lot of damage. In many fights, the bad guys (and sometimes the good guys) went down due to exhaustion or a lucky shot rather than wounds. That said, combat in HarnMaster is dangerous stuff. Failing in combat assures your character will be injured at best (dead at the worst); but isn't that supposed to be how combat works? As a GM I always want my player-characters to at least feel threatened by combat.

PS: Hi Balesir! Nice to see a familiar name.
 

MrHemlocks

Banned
Banned
Glad we caught your interest Mishihari Lord; the game can be combat rich and full of daring do. Or at least, mine is.

I ran a combat-based game for many years. If your players have the armor, you can withstand a lot of damage. In many fights, the bad guys (and sometimes the good guys) went down due to exhaustion or a lucky shot rather than wounds. That said, combat in HarnMaster is dangerous stuff. Failing in combat assures your character will be injured at best (dead at the worst); but isn't that supposed to be how combat works? As a GM I always want my player-characters to at least feel threatened by combat.

PS: Hi Balesir! Nice to see a familiar name.

That is the problem with games like AD&D. Combat is weak and players do the dumbest things knowing it. Most players, even those that continue to play their characters foolishly, have little to fear in combat. If they do get injured it is for generic hit point loose, that can be easily healed, and if they do die, which is VERY rare, they can get a rez.
 

Balesir

Adventurer
That is the problem with games like AD&D. Combat is weak and players do the dumbest things knowing it. Most players, even those that continue to play their characters foolishly, have little to fear in combat. If they do get injured it is for generic hit point loose, that can be easily healed, and if they do die, which is VERY rare, they can get a rez.
It's a different aesthetic, is all. In D&D, at least later editions, you are in Die Hard or an Indiana Jones movie; in HM you are in a Song of Ice & Fire book or a fantasy world so real you can almost touch and smell it...

Nothing wrong with either - just different.
 

Ketherian

Explorer
Running a HarnMaster game will not save you from players who decide to take ... odd turns or act foolishly in dangerous situations. :D The D&D dynamic is different, but there are low-magic versions of d20 with a similar feel to HarnMaster combat, if that's what you're looking for.
 


Treebore

First Post
I've never warmed up to the Harn system, but I have still bought lots and lots of the products. Why? Because they are full of awesome! As is much of the content on Lythia.com that is linked earlier.

So even if a person isn't going to like the system, I still think they should buy the materials. The level of detail is simply amazing, and very usable in pretty much any medieval setting. I have used many of the awesomely detailed Manor houses (Yes, I own the Manors packet), the religions, the magic orders, etc...
 

Ketherian

Explorer
And don't forget the maps. It was the maps that initially drew me into playing (and later running) the game. The newer maps are even better. I'm a real sucker for detailed background, and HarnWorld has it in spades.

Treebore, if you loved the Manors, have you seen the Inns of Harn?
 


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