Introduction to the introduction

posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

HârnMaster* Fantasy Roleplaying System by N. Robin Crosby

PART 1: Introduction to the introduction

HârnMaster was first published in 1986 by Columbia Games and received 3 subsequent editions (HârnMaster Core also by Columbia Games, HârnMaster Gold by Kelestia Productions and HârnMaster 3rd Edition at CG again). While the 1st edition – which is the one I own and will cover – was know for a high-realism/simulationist bent, people felt that Core was an oversimplification of the rules and the Gold edition went back to high-realism roots with a vengeance. 3rd Edition strives to bring back faster gameplay while streamlining the rules and maintaining realism.

The game is level-less and skill-based. Skill and combat rolls are based on d100 roll under and copious use of tables for combat resolution.

1st Edition is technically a stand-alone book but you'll be a bit short in the setting department. The book helpfully points out all the supplements you can buy on the very first page. It even points out that prices are in US$ but forgets to actually give prices for the products except for one. Oh, well.

The book is separated into 12 sections (Introduction, Characters, Skills, Combat, Religion, Shek Pvar (Magic), Mercantyler, Prices, Campaign, Encounters, Bestiary and Treasure). We'll cover each of those in time.

(The Actual) Introduction

The game start by telling us that it is a fantasy roleplaying game and points out that:

”The Gamemaster is separated from the players by a screen, behind which he hides his secrets; maps, lists, special rules, and other data to which neither the players nor their player-character are privy.”

It then goes on to say that the GM has “Total Power over the world” , can make “Excecutive Privileges“ to decide how things unfold and that players should “abide by his decisions” . It then adds that “a player who does not enjoy the game may exercise his ultimate sanction, to not play.” Thanks, game!

The book then talks about the game in general (what are quests, how to gloss over boring details like finding food and lodging if necessary, what's a game session, etc.) and mortality of characters. It makes a point right away that “Most [player characters] die reaching for the grail just beyond reach, or by making a fatal mistake.” Which is a pretty clear indication of the lethality of the system.

It then ends the introduction by talking about dice convention, some abbreviations and advice for players:

”1) Listen to the GM. If he describes a situation and you are too busy to listen, he may be too busy to explain it again.

2) If you are inclined to dominate a group or to fade into the background, try to limit your inclination. Roleplaying works best if all players have a say. Other players' objectives may not coincide with yours, but if the group is to function well, everyone must be accommodated.

3) Work things out ahead of time. If a party with no plan of march is ambushed, the GM will have to randomly determine who is in front and who is behind. Any plan is usually better than no plan at all.

4) Be organized. Roleplaying generates paperwork.

5) Try not to divide the group. Apart from the fact that two groups of two are more likely to succumb to a sudden attack than one group of four, dividing the party forces the GM to send one group out of earshot while he deals with the other.

6) Keep your competitive instinct in its place. There is no percentage in trying to compete with the other member of your group, and it is pointless to try and compete with an omnipotent gamemaster.

7) Never forget human nature and sensibilities. Your real life friends are more important than any game.”

Next up: Character creation!

*Notice how the cover art doesn't have a circumflex on the “A”? They were very careful to add one in latter edition lest they be known in German circles as “UrineMaster Fantasy Roleplaying System”. Although considering some of the gems in this thread it might have fit better...

Character Creation

posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

Meet the family


PART 2 – Character Creation

This chapter starts out with the basics of character generation and mentions right off the bat that ”HârnMaster uses more attributes than may seem necessary. Experience has shown that the only attribute you need is the one NOT generated.” Great.

When I used to play this game years ago, I remember enjoying character creation since I was a big fan of roll for everything, ever. Let's see how I fare today!

The game makes extensive use of attributes. In fact there are 13 core attributes (!) scored 1-18 and a whole bunch of derived ones. Also: everything about your character (except, optionally, gender and morality) is randomly generated.

Get ready for some dice rolling!

Step 1 : The Birth Attributes:


Here we'll determine if our hero is Human (89% chance), Sindarin (Elf – 1%). Khuzdul (Dwarf – 1%) or one of a variety of Gargun (Orcs – 9%)

We roll a 51 meaning we're getting a Human.

SEX d100

The game points out that ”role playing difficulties are best avoided if players have a character of their own gender.” but we'll roll for it anyway. We get a 12 . It's a boy! We'll call him Pete.

Interestingly, Sindarin have a 45% chance to be male, Khuzdul a 75% and Gargun a 99% chance which probably makes for some awkward high-school dances.

BIRTHDATE d30 and d12

First we roll a d12 for the month. A 9 means Pete was born on the month of Savor. Our d30 roll is a 3 so Pete was born on the 3rd of Savor.


What's our sign? We consult this handy table and we see that the 3rd of Savor means that we are the sign of Tarael, The Pentacle. Sunsigns will give us some extras later on in character creation.

Note that if Pete had been born on the 1st or last 2 days of a month he would have been “on the cusp”, meaning he would have gotten to chose between two signs for the extra (one or the other, not both).


Based on the birthplace chosen we'll know if the place falls under one of these categories: Tribal, Vicking, Feudal, Feudal/Imperial, Imperial, Sindarin, or Khuzdul. This will be important for the next step. I'll pick Feudal as it is the most common one.


This will determine Pete's social class as well as starting skills. We get to roll on this big-ass table.

We roll a 621 which nets us “(S)Villein/Wealthy Thrall (0%)”. The (S) means we fall under the social class of Serf/Slave/Etc. The % is the chance that we come from an urban area for this particular occupation. Off to a great start in life, our Pete is!

Yes, there was a not insignificant chance that our parents were straight up slaves, domestic servants or unskilled labourers.


This will tell us if we have any siblings and where we fit in the food chain. (Mostly relevant to those who roll things like “Earl” or “Chieftain” on the occupation table).

We roll a 73 which means we have brothers and sisters. We then get to roll another d100 to tell us how many. We get a 95 which means Pete is the 9th eldest. We then get to roll (again) to see whether each sibling are male/female (52% female) and whether they are still alive or not (60% yes). After a bunch of rolls we find that Pete's sibling are/were 5 brothers (4 dead) and 4 sisters (all dead). Only 1 brother stands between Pete and inheriting everything a Feudal Thrall would own! Riches await!

Note: the other sibling rank options were: Orphan, Fostered, Adopted, Unacknowledged Bastard, and Acknowledged Bastard.


Here we'll find out how Pete gets along with his remaining family. We roll a 13 Which means Pete is Unpopular. Maybe Pete should forget about that inheritance...

Other options were: Outcast, Average, Popular and Favourite.


This will tell us Pete's relationship to the head of his clan. Which the game points out might be more important that the relationship to a parent. Rolling a 41 means it's a distant relation. Because of that result, the game then prompts to see our father's relationship to the clan head. We get an 89 which means Father/Mother. So Pete's Grandfather or Grandmother is the clanhead. Not so distant after all.


Here we'll find out if Pete has any medical conditions he should be worried about (65% chance of yes). The roll is a 480 “Recessive Traits”. We get to roll again on the table and get a 176 “Allergy”. Pete now has a 75% chance to pass his allergies to his kids but does not suffer from them himself. That seems... strange. Anyone know if that's possible?

Other results from the table include things like: Double Jointed, Left-Handed, Obesity and Lycanthropy.

Step 2 : The Appearance Attributes

HEIGHT by species

Since Pete is a Human male he rolls 5d6+50 inches to find his height. We get a [17] meaning Pete is 67 inches tall or 5'7” which is pretty average for the setting.


Here we'll find Pete's build. Rolling 9 gives us an average frame (out of Scant, Light, Average, Heavy and Massive).

WEIGHT Derived.

Looking on the table we cross reference Pete's height with his frame to find that he weights 149 pounds.


Quote from the game: ”General skin pigmentation is a descriptive attribute, but the GM may use it in other ways; darker people are less susceptible to sunstroke and heat exhaustion for example.”

Ok. We roll a 14 Which gives a result of “Dark”.


The table has different results based on complexion. Since Pete is “Dark” and we rolled a 53 it means he has Brown hair.


Again based on complexion. A roll of 97 means Grey eyes.


”A general assessment of how physically attractive the character seems to members of the same species.” A roll of 7 means Pete is “Plain”

Step 3 : The Core and Derived Attributes

The game offers three methods of attribute generation:

1) Roll 4d6 keep highest 3.
2) Roll 2d6+6 per attribute.
3) Set attributes at 8 and distribute 28 points.

We'll go with option 1.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES 4d6 keep highest 3

The physical attributes are: Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, Agility, Speed, Eyesight, Hearing, Smell/Taste, Touch and Voice.

Yes, the game has separate attributes for 4 of the 5 senses...

In order, our rolls are 12, 11, 12, 11, 13, 12, 5, 8, 17, and 18 (!) giving Pete the following attributes:

STR: 12
END: 11
DEX: 12
AGI: 11
SPE: 13
EYE: 12
HEA: 5
S/T: 8
TOU: 17
VOI: 18

Our Pete pretty average except that he is hard of hearing but has what is classified as an “Unearthly” voice. He's also clearly got the touch

Note that if Pete had been a woman his(her) attributes would have been modified as follow: -2 speed (um, ok..?), +1 smell/taste (sure, why not?) and +2 Aura (women are spooooky)


The personality attributes re: Intelligence, Aura (mind powers), Will, and Morality. Normally Morality is a choice but where's the fun in that?

Our rolls are, in order: 10, 15, 14 and 12 This gives Pete the following attributes:

INT: 10
AUR: 15
WIL: 14
Morality: Law-Abiding*

*other results included: Diabolical, Unscrupulous, Corruptible, Principled and Exemplary.

PSYCHE d1000

Here we'll find out if Pete has any psychological disorder (59% chance of yes)

We roll a 152 which means Pete has lexdis dilsle sexlexia dislexia. Poor Pete.

Other possibilities included: acrophobia (fear of heights), heliophobia (fear of the sun) and sex mania ( )

DEITY Choice based on Morality.

Since Pete rolled a 12 for Morality, it means he gets to choose from either Agrik (evil god of war), Halea (godess of welath and pleasure), Ilvir (craven god of sorcerous beasts), Larani (lady of paladins), Peoni (lady of healing and virtue), Sarajin (vicking god of battle), Save-K'nor (wise god of riddles) or Siem (god of dreams, elves and dwarves).

We'll explain the gods later on but, for now, Pete will go with Peoni as she is most often worshiped by peasants and the poor.

Unavailable options due to morality were: Morgath (evil god of undeath) and Naveh (god of thieves and assassins).


This will tell us how many brownie points for his chosen gods Pete has saved up. The basics are that Piety is accrued by prayer and is used when divine intervention is needed.

We roll 10 Pete has been a bit forgetful in his godly duties.

Phew. That was a lot of words. But we're not done yet!

Next up: Derived attributes and skills. We'll also find out if Pete gets any psychic powers due to his Aura score. (Hint: he does).

Edit: code stuff

Character Creation (cont.), Skills and Mind Bullets

posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

Our boy Pete


PART 3 – Character Creation (cont.), Skills and Mind Bullets.

When we last left Pete, dyslexic son of a wealthy thrall, we knew a whole bunch about him but not so much what he could do. In this part we'll finish his derived attributes, find out how skills work and what Pete has learned so far.


Although we won't learn much of them now (that comes in the combat section) we'll fill out the sections on Pete's sheet for Mobility (speed x 5), Dodge (Agility x 5), Initiative (the SUM of END, DEX, AGI, SPE, and WILL) and Fatigue Rate (load / END).

This gives Pete the following:

Mobility: 65
Dodge: 55
Initiative: 49
Fatigue Rate: we don't quite know yet since Pete doesn't have much in the way of possessions.


The game then talks about rules for bring characters from other systems but advises against it until HârnMaster is fully understood. It then advises GM's to explain the rules briefly to players, asks them to describe their shared experience in order to form a cohesive group and, my favourite part, talks about how it is important that players know the basics of the culture of their characters. For example, the game argues that they would know about their immediate lord, the surrounding countryside and know how feudalism works. It goes on to propose the following:


A short seminar can be given to impart necessary background to the player

I'll get right on that PowerPoint presentation.

It then talks about defining more the character's family background, if they may inherit (Pete won't – unless he offs his brother and his dad starts liking him more) and so on. There's a special mention about “unfree” characters (basically any character with the (S) (Serf/Slave) prefix in front of his parent's occupation – like our poor Pete).

The gist of it is that the character's feudal lord would not allow anyone to run away to start adventuring, dragons roaming the countryside or no. The character can basically a) suck it up (not very adventurous), b) run away. If running away is chosen, a brief explanations of the different options is given (go to a freetown, evade pursuit for more than a month, be employed by the miner's guild for more than 2 years (they have their own courts) or seek sanctuary in a church). At any rate, the game helpfully points out that you should not kill off the character in what is essentially still the pre-game ”unless they persist in gross stupidity.”


Time for Pete to find a job. There isn't much future in being the son of a Thrall (even if a wealthy one). The game gives the option to choose your character's occupation as long as it doesn't conflict with your background. For example; the son of a Thrall would likely not be a knight.

There's also a random table to get your occupation if you're so inclined. Which is what I'll be doing, re-rolling if the result doesn't mesh with Pete's background / abilities. While Pete would probably make a decent singer (even with his hearing) he'd be a poor cook with smell and taste like his.

The roll is a d100 and we get a 87 which means Pete is apprenticed to a tentmaker. (The first roll gave perfumer as a result but I doubt Pete would have been very good at it, what with his sense of smell being what it is).

Tentmaker gives us access to the following skills: Textilecraft, Hideworking and Carpentry. It also has the advantage of allowing Pete to also serve in the town's militia at the same time – giving Pete access to skills more suited to his eventual adventuring life. Militia skills for Pete are: Spear, Glaive, Roundshield and Dagger.


The way the system works is that every skill has a set of attributes (and sunsign) assigned to them; the Skill Base [SB] which is calculated by adding the attributes/3 and adding the sunsign bonus and an Opening Mastery Level [OML] . The SB gives you the basic number for the skill and the OML is a multiplier. So, for example, the skill “Spear” is listed as:

Spear – STR DEX DEX [Aralius/Feneri +1] OML: SB3

This means that, for Pete, his Spear SB would be 12+12+12/3 + 0 and multiplying the result by 3. If Pete had the sunsign of either Aralius or Feneri he would add 1 to his [SB] of 12. Multiplying that 12 by 3 (the skill's OML) he gets a result of 36 for his Spear skill.

Ok, but which skills does one get?

Everyone has the following:

Native tongue
Ritual (the ins-and-out of your chosen religion)
Psionics (if Aura is 12+)

Then they get family skills. These are the skills from your parent's occupation.

Pete gets: Agriculture, Weatherlore and 2 animalcraft skills (Pete chooses Horses and Pigs).

And then you get the skills from your own occupation (listed above for Pete the tentmaker's apprentice).


For non-combat skills the resolution system is fairly simple. Roll a d100 under your skill value. If the result ends in either a 5 or a 0, then you have scored a critical success (or critical failure if the result is above your skill level).

This would mean that if Pete, who has a skill of 26 (STR END WIL [Aralius/Ulandus +2] OML: SB2) in Agriculture, rolled a 05, 10, 15, 20 or 25 he would critically succeed his skill check. Other results bellow 26 would simply be regular successes. However, if he rolled 30, 35, 40 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, or 00, he would critically fail.

Skills can also be modified up or down based on difficulty (Ex. Pete wants to find out if the plant he's looking at is Corn or Beets, the GM gives him +30 to his skill). This modified skill value is called the Effective Mastery Level [EML]


Whenever it's called for a skilled to improve (when this is is not made very clear in the game), the player rolls a d100+SB and must have a result that exceeds the current skill OML.

Example: Pete stabs a goat that was trying to eat the Earl's apples. This was Pete's first real combat and the GM decides that he may try to improve his spear skill. Pete would then roll d100+12 and try to have a result above 26. Pete rolls a 31 for a total of 43. Pete's spear skill is now 27! Pete's on his way to great things.

Note that it is possible to have multiple simultaneous improvement rolls for the same skill but each must be rolled separately.

I won't list all the skills but they are separated in the following categories:

Athletic (jumping, throwing, etc.)
Communication (language, oratory, etc.)
Craft & Lore (Acting, Weatherlore, etc.)
Psionic Talents (see bellow)
Combat Skills (Sling, Dagger, etc.) Note that here each weapon is it's own skill. A dagger is not the same a knife here.

The game then goes on to explain how skill level can be used to produce higher quality items, how to handle attribute testing (multiply attribute by x3 to x6 and roll under with d100), the effect of injury on skill checks (we'll get to that in the combat section) and, finally, psionic powers.


Any character with an Aura score of 12+ gets a power. In fact, you get one at 12 and a new one for each point above 12. This means that Pete gets 3 powers! Go, Pete!

To find out which power Pete has we roll on yet another table using a d100. Our results are: 30, 89 and 53 which gives us the powers of:

Medium [14] : Pete may attempt to communicate, summon or control ghosts (Ethereals as the game calls them)

Telekinesis [2 per ounce] : Move things with his mind. Note that a Critical Success [CS] here would mean that the object teleports from one place to the next.

Negation [16] : Pete can create a “psychic bubble” centered around his head that prevents the use of psionics. Note that this goes both ways. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out.

The game doesn't say what to do if you roll the same power twice. I assume you just re-roll until you get something new. I guess you could also say that the Psionic skill is opened at SBx2 instead of SBx1.

The number in brackets is the base fatigue cost of the psionic. The actual fatigue cost is base – SI (SI is the first digit of the skill OML. Ex. If your skill is anything between 10 and 19, the SI is 1).

Every psionic opens at SB1 and is calculated with AUR AUR WIL (Pete doesn't have a relevant sunsign for any of them). That means that Pete's psionics are all at OML 15. He gets to subtract a whole 1 from the above fatigue costs.

To use a psionic you roll like any other skill. The difference being that a critical failure means you have to make a shock roll (we'll cover that in Combat but the basics is roll d100 under END x3) or suffer from “Psionic Blindness”, which means no use of psionics for 2d6 hours. A CS means that the fatigue cost is halved.

Other potential psionics include: pyrokinesis, telepathy, and clairvoyance. None of which would be a pain for GM's in an otherwise real serious™ simulationist game, I'm sure. The game does mention that most if not all rolls related to psionics should be made by the GM. In secret, natch.

Next up: Combat!


posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

Not in the groin!


PART 4 – Combat

Combat is the meant and potatoes of HârnMaster. Here we'll find rules for foot combat, ranged combat, grappling, bloodloss, amputation, recovery and medieval surgery. Fun!

A lot of time could be spent here but I would rather avoid typing the whole book. I'll try to keep it to the essentials (which is still a lot compared to other systems).


Rounds are 10 seconds long and combat movement takes place on a 25mm grid where 25mm = 5 feet. I honestly never used a grid way back when I played so you can probably wing it if that's your thing.

Each player may take one ACTION during his round. Actions consist of:

Rest: recuperate 1/6 END per 10 seconds.

Move: only if not engaged in combat.

Engage: get close to someone to bash them on the head.

Disengage: Avoid getting bashed on the head.

Rise: If you previously fell or were prone.

Grope (heh): Draw a weapon, string a bow, pick up something, etc.

Mount/Dismount: If you can afford a horse.

Grapple Attack: Pin the opponent somehow.

Melee Attack: Cut, stab, poke.

Missile Attack: Shoot your bow or cross bow (interestingly the fluff says that the island of Hârn (that's where the game takes place) has not invented the crossbow yet.

Esoteric option: Combat magic or psionics.


Each weapon has the following attributes: weight, quality (you may try to break someone's weapon), attack/defense bonus , primary and secondary hand use penalty (basically if you try to use a great sword in one hand you'll get penalized) and strike aspects which are: Blunt (B), Edge/Cut (E), and Pierce (P) .

We'll focus on the bolded ones only.

A typical weapon would be presented as such:

Shortsword – 2 (weight) – 11 (quality) – 2/1 (attack/defense bonus) – 2/4/4 (blunt/edge/pierce)


1- Attack Declaration
2- Defense Declaration
3- Skill [EML] Determination
4- Attack Resolution

In the Attack Declaration phase you would state where you are aiming (head, arms, body or legs) and which aspect of your weapon you want to use (B/E/P)

The defender would then get to choose from the following options in the Defense Declaration :

Block: Using a weapon or a shield

Counterstrike: Attack you as well. Usually nasty results for all.

Dodge: Get out of the way somehow.

Grapple: Try to pin your weapon.

Ignore: Usually for unaware targets.

Missile Defense: If you have not yet fully engaged in melee and they have a missile weapon at the ready they can fire on you as you close in.

Esoteric Defense: Again, some psionics or magic may help here.

You would then modify the skill of both combatants according to whatever factors are in place (terrain, injury, surprise, etc.) The only “always on” factor is comparing weapon Attack vs Defense bonus. We'll see that below. This is the Skill Determination part.

You then do the Attack Resolution


The Attack Resolution phase is where the combat tables come into play.

On this first table we can find the following:

Top left: the Attack/Defense bonus per weapon.

Top right: Here you would match the attacking weapon's attack bonus against the defending weapon (or shield's) defense bonus. The result will wither be a bonus to the attacker's skill (anything listed A*) or a bonus to the defender's defense skill (anything listed D*).

The bottom three charts give you results of the opposite skill check for melee, grapple and missile.

Example: Our friend Pete is fighting 2 Garguns (orcs) as part of his militia duties. He's using his trusty spear and they are using Mangs (Gargun swords). It's Pete's turn to attack and he decides to poke at one Garun's chest with the pointy end of his spear. The Gargun will counterstrike.

Pete's spear has an attack ratting of 4 and a Mang has a defense ratting of 2. Looking at the table this gives Pete a +10 bonus to his skill. Lucky Pete!

Pete rolls a 34 (which thanks to the attack bonus is a hit). A Moderate Success {MS). The gargun also attacks and rolls a 23 which is also a MS. Cross checking the melee table we see the result is A2. This means that Pete will roll 2d6 to add to his spears piercing damage (which is 7).

The next steps are to find where Pete struck and see if the Gargun was wearing armour there.

On this combat table we find:

Top left: Hit locations and the hit modifiers for each. Yes, once you hit the face or hands you get to roll again to see if maybe what you actually hit was the 3rd finger of the left hand.

Top right: An overview of armour protection ratings per damage type.

Bottom: The actual injury resolution table.

So, Pete having struck the Gargun in the body, he rolls to see exactly where and finds that he hit the thorax (roll of 47 ). The Gargun is wearing inferior quality hide armour there which will reduce the damage roll by 1 point against Pete's spear point.

Pete then rolls his 2d6+7 from before and gets a result of 17 ! Looking point column and thorax line on the table this means that the result is B1 K3 . This result indicates that the Gargun starts bleeding (the B) for 1 point of fatigue per round and will be killed on the spot (the K result) unless he successfully rolls 3d6 under his END.

The Gargun's END is 11. He rolls 9 . Poor Pete. But wait, all is not lost. Since this was a kill roll, even success means that he must now roll a shock roll (those are listed as E) and add 1 dice to the roll. So now the Gargun has to roll 4d6 under his END or pass out. The result is 13 . The Gargun passes out, leaving only one. Go, Pete!


A* results are Amputation rolls. If the result exceeds 1/10 of the victims body weight, that part is severed.

E* results are shock rolls. Roll xd6 under END or pass out.

K* results are kill rolls. Roll xd6 under END or die. If you succeed you get to roll a shock roll and add 1 more dice than the kill roll (see example above).

B* results are bleeding. This is the number of fatigue you take per round. Once you have reached END bleeding you pass out (and continue to bleed). If you reach ENDx2 bleeding you die.

S* results are stumble rolls. Roll xd6 under AGI or fall prone.

F* results are fumble rolls. Roll xd6 under DEX or drop whatever was in that hand.

You can also see at the bottom of chart 2 that you take injury points based on the colour coding. Injury points are subtracted from your skill rolls for the rest of the combat. Every 1/10th point is added to any rolls you make against your attribute.

This is a lethal system!

The game then goes on discussing grappling rules (don't get grappled), mounted combat, missile combat, armour and weapon quality and crafting as well as healing. Healing is handled with rolls from the healer VS rolls from the injured END. There's lots of talk of infection, cauterization, amputation and so on. You might very well survive the fight only to die due to infection later on.

Next up: Religion!


posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

Various religious symbols.


PART 5 – Religion

In the religion section of the book we'll see rules for entering the priesthood, calling for divine favours, performing ritual invocation of godly powers, and a brief description of the major gods of the pantheon.

Going with the goal of realism of the system, intervention by the gods and powers given to their followers are intended to manifest in more subtle ways than, say, a glowing hammer appearing out of thin air and smashing an opponent in the face.

Successfully performing the ritual for “summoning” for example would not get a puff of smoke and suddenly, hey, there's a wolf, but an animal logical for the area you're in would wander in and indirectly help you. In the woods, you might get a pack of wolves to spook away the enemies horses,
for example.


There are 10 major deities in the Hârnic pantheon. They're much more detailed in the Gods of Hârn supplement but the rulebook does have some basic info on them.

Lord of the four horsemen, Master of the V'hir, (Demons) Immortal Warlord of Balgashang (Hell), Breeder of Plague, Squalor, and Decay, Reasonless reaper, Tyrant of the Foul Chamber, Knower of the Ten Thousand Ways.

Agrik is not a nice guy. He's listed as an “Evil god of war and senseless violence”. He enjoys fire and fighting pits. His symbol is a flame. His skills (given to members of the priesthood) are: Mace, Whip and Sickle.

The Empress of Opulence, Queen of Pleasure and Self-Fulfillment, Maker of Bargains, Guardian of the Treasure Hordes of Heaven, Enslaver of Hearts and Loins, Unchaste Lady of the Ten Forgotten Acts ( ), Golden Temptress of the Crimson Chamber.

Halea is the amoral godess of wealth and pleasure. Only women can enter the priesthood. Males are relegated to temple guards and consorts. Her symbol is a tiny bell. Her skills are Lovecraft, Perfumery and Musician.

Master of Araka-Kalai (his domain), Brooder in the Blasted Plains, Serpent that Dwells Below, Accursed Lord of the Barren Cycle, Prince of the Fatherless Multitude, Craven Lord of the Sterile Lands.

Ilvir is the creator of the Ivashu (the settings excuse for monsters). He's all about self-preservation and mysticism. The short of it is that Ilvir at one point in the primordial ooze and out came the Ivashu. His symbol is a claw. His skills are Script, Drawing, and Animalcraft (Ivashu).

Shieldmaiden of the Worthy Cause, Guardian of Dolithar (Heaven), the Unwilling Warrior, Lady of Paladins, Protector of the Brave.

Larani is the godess of chivalry, honour, just battle and all that jazz. She has many fighting orders dedicated to her cause. Her symbol is a sword. Her skills are any sword, Mace, and Knight Shield.

Tormentor of the Unlamented Dead, Master of the Principle of Evil, Lord of the Gulmorvin of the Black Pit, Wielder of the Shadow of Incarnate Evil, Wreaker of Chaos.

Morgath is the master of evil, chaos and undeath. He disepises order and justice. His orders are often backstabbing, ruthless, organizations. His symbol is a kinda like a cog on a black circle. His skill is Dagger.

Lord of the Pitch Shadows, Master of Deceit and Evil Dreams, Lord of the Last Illusion, Merchant of Death, Unseen Lifter of Lives, Trancer the Cat, Wealth's Worry.

Naveh is often worshiped by thieves and assassins. He is considered the doer of the impossible and a master of lies and deception. His symbol is a skull. His skill are Legerdemain (pickpocket), Dagger and Lockcraft.

The Restorer and Bringer of Life Renewed, Maker of Balms, Lady of Truth, Everliving Daughter of White Virtue, Guardian of the Meek, Lady of Industrious Labours and the Ripe Harvest, Confidant of Lovers, Chaste Lady of Honest Love

Peoni is the godess of healing and agriculture. She is worshiped all over by the peasantry, the meek and the powerless. Her symbol is a sunflower. Her skills are Physician and Agriculture.

King of the Icy Winds, Lord of the Perilous Quest, Wielder of the Blooded Axe, Master of Frosty Climes, The Gray Slayer

Sarajin is the god of battlelust and bravado His orders are mostly informal and have no central authority. His symbol is two crossed axes. His skills are any Axe, Dagger and any Shield.

Lord of Puzzles, Conundrums and Mazes, Sage of the Gods, Lord of Jesters, Mixer of Potions, Knower of Many Things, Keeper of the Var-Hyvrak (tome of knowledge), The Lost Guide.

Save-K'Nor is the god of knowledge and enlightenment. Often worshiped by sages and the scientifically inclined. His symbol is a lantern. His skills are Script and Drawing.

Master of the Lords of Dreams, Bringer of Meritorious Dreams and Blessed Forgetfulness, Lord of the Starlit and Thrice-Blessed Realm, King of the Uttermost West, Master of the Sundered Ones in Exile, Spirit of the Mist, Never Changing Lord of the Azure Bowl.

Siem is the benign god of mystery, magic and dreams. He is the chief deity of elves and dwarves. Doesn't have much in the way of organization, letting his followers worship in their own ways. His symbol is a bowl. His skills are Script, Astrology and Survival.


Rules are given for joining and advancing in a given church (based on your ritual skill – for example you could not become a high priest until your ritual skill is at least 76). We also get rules for gaining piety points which are the chief currency to get rituals and divine intervention going.

Example: Pete decides to go pray to Peoni after winning that battle with the Garguns. He feels she helped him a lot. He has to spend at least an hour in prayer or meditation to get a 20% chance of gaining 1 piety point. If Pete had gone to confession/penance instead he would have gotten and 80% chance of 2 points. Meanwhile, questing or a serious sacrifice (which for Peoni would be giving to the poor or helping the plague ridden or something) both have variable (i.e. GM fiat) chances of any piety points the GM wants to give based on what is accomplished.

Advancing in the priesthood of your deity gives access to ritual invocations (spells) based on your ritual skills. Performing a ritual calls for a skillcheck against Ritual (who'd a thunk it?) and an expenditure of piety points. Each god has a different list of rituals and, again, the Gods of Hârn supplement provides more than the rulebook. We still find these examples:

Halea's Voice : The caster's Oratory and Rhetoric skills are doubled for 5 minutes.

Battlelust : The caster can make everyone in the area go berserk (would only use counterstrike option in combat) for a time.

Cure : Improve the patient's EML / Attribute roll when healing from wounds.

Overall there are about 2 dozen sample rituals provided. Again, they are meant as subtle rather than flashy.


Any character, member of a priesthood or not, can call for divine intervention. The book states that divine intervention should never be overt (i.e. no striking down foes with lightning) and needs to fit the general theme of the god called upon (i.e. Agrik would not respond well to pleas for mercy).

The general rules for intervention are to 1) spend any amount of piety wished from your pool (the higher the amount the “better” the intervention will be) and 2) roll on a table. This time the game calls for a d100 roll ABOVE a target number. This target number is different for each god. Halea (roll 86+) for example is more likely to respond than Ilvir (roll 96+).

If the roll succeeds, then you get to find out if there's a condition to it. You might get help but there could be a cost to it after the fact. Larani for example might require a quest of you to recover some artifact. Again, the chance of condition differs by gods.

If the roll should fail, then you would roll a d100 to instead find if there is retribution. Calling on the gods can be a dangerous game.

For reference the deities most likely to grant intervention are demons (roll 71+) but also the most likely to have a condition (Roll 95+ or there is one) and also the most likely to have retribution (roll above 50+ and there is one). The most forgiving gods are Siem and Peoni since they would have retribution only if you failed to roll above a 6 on d100.

Example: Pete is walking his rounds as a militia member and slips on something that causes him to fall off the parapet. It's a straight drop and Pete would be seriously injured if he fell. He prays to Peoni to save him and spends all of his 10 piety points. He rolls a 93 on a d100 and makes it! The GM rules that he fell on a structure that was against the outside wall and it breaks his fall for minimal damage. Pete then rolls to see if there are conditions attached to his intervention. He rolls a 24 which means there are some conditions. The GM and Pete's player agree that he fell on some poor man's house and destroyed it in the process of breaking his fall. Feeling pretty bad about that, Pete endeavours to help the man find new lodging while he helps rebuild his house.

Overall I like the religion system as presented in the book as it helps keep the low-fantasy feel of the game. Let's see if the magic system keeps that up.

Next Up: Magic!

The Shek-Pvar (Magic)

posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

A fearsome mage


PART 6 – The Shek-Pvar (Magic)

The Shek-Pvar is the name of an ancient order of magic practitioners. Some say their origins are with the instinct Earthmaster race. Some say they are the direct descendants of the Earthmaster. Most agree that they simply discovered a cache of Earthmaster artifacts in times long past and understood enough to give us the rudiments of magic.

Whatever the case may be, magic exists and is used by an organized group. The book doesn't go into much details as to if magic is openly used, feared or if there are organized witch hunts. Based on the spell selection and the code of conduct for Shek-Pvar, I would guess the game aims to go to with a Middle-Earth/Gandalf vibe with magic users. They're to be rare, maybe feared, powerful but not around every corner. Maybe the Shek-Pvar supplement addresses that but I don't have it.


Essentially the Pvaric order perceives the cosmos in terms of elemental principles and the various Shek-Pvar convocations reflect that. The convocations are arranged on a wheel and a given mage can easily use convocations from his primary sphere, with some difficulty he can use those of adjacent spheres and has very little chance to use those directly opposing.

The Convocations are:

Lyahvi (Air): Its principles are light and illusion and its opposite is Fyvria.
Peleahn (Fire): Its principle is pyrotechnics and its opposite is Odivshe.
Jmorvi (Metal): Its principle is artifice and its opposite is Savorya.
Fyviria (Earth): Its principle is life cycles and its opposite is Lyahvi
Odivshe (Water): Its principle is hydrotechnics and its opposite is Peleahn.
Savorya (Spirit): Its principles are knowledge and the mind. Its opposite is Jmorvi.

The Shek-Pvar have a code of ethics for all their members. The members who break the rules are hunted by other members of the order and reformed, imprisoned or, in extreme cases, killed.

The Shek-Pvar Code:

1. Bring not the scorn of the Kvikir (ordinary folks) upon thy brothers, nor make with thy art a place for thyself above them.

2. Spread not thy lore, even among thy brothers, without the sanction of thy peers.

3. Keep sacred and free from harm thy house of lore (chantry).

4. Succor not a renegade of the art, but strike him down with thy power, else sumon thy brothers to thy aid.

5. Make tithe to thy house a portion of thyne arcane treasure to thy brother's benefit.

Ranks among the Shek-Pvar

In principle all mages reside within chantries where they study and learn new spells. In practice that would not work very well unless the group is an all Shek-Pvar team. So the order is organized into;

The Mavari (apprentices). These work under a full master and mostly stay at the chantry or do tasks for their masters. You don't get to learn spells at this rank.

The Satia-Mavari are those of the Shek-Pvar who are tasked with learning of the world. They are sent off-chantry where they must test and refine their art (and gather some treasure for the chantry). If they can keep this up for a year and a day they get promoted to the next rank. Most players would fall here as this is where a Shek-Pvar first gets spells.

The Shenava (journeymen) are independent. They may travel or stay with the chantry. The goal here is to develop their art on their own independently from the masters.

The Virana are the master Shek-Pvar. The only way to become one is to earn the respect and admiration of other masters. The game mentions that most masters have only learned how little they actually know and spend all their time refining their art to the exclusion of all else.


In game terms to have any chance of successfully casting spells a player needs 1) a high Aura score, 2) the right sunsign (they give bonuses to spell skill levels and 3) the right family connections. The son or daughter of a Shek-Pvar will at least be given a test to see if they can practice magic.

Once someone makes it in, they must then acquire spells. The way this work is to add INT and AUR. This gives you a point pool with which to buy initial spell selection. Spell cost is listed in brackets next to their names and ranges from 1 to 5. All spells open at SB2 unless extra points are spent. So to open a level 1 spell at SB3 would cost 2 points. The cost for extra SB is doubled for level 2, tripled for level 3 and so on. So to open a level 4 spell at SB4 costs 12 points.

The game then goes on to talk about calculating skill base for spells (AUR+AUR+INT), how to learn spells (either with a teacher, from written works, by independent research or spontaneously), enchanting items, and how to cast spells.

Casting a spell is a skillcheck against the spell's skill. Fatigue is accrued and misfires can happen on critical failures. The misfires range from “Energy Dissipation” (double fatigue cost) to “Gross Misfire” (3x fatigue and “the spell has run wild in the worst possible way” - GM makes it up).


There are about a dozen spells per convocation as well as rules for creating new spells (a big part of being a Shek-Pvar). The format is NAME [convocation/spell level]. I won't list them all or give all the details for fatigue and such but here are some samples:

Neutral Spells

These can be known by all regardless of convocation.

DISPELL [Neutral/2]
You remove one temporary enchantment from an object or person.

MASK of shinjur [neutral/5]
With this spell you can shapechange the face of one living creature. Starts by working only on you and requiring a picture of the target shape to allowing changing other people and/or the full body.

Lyahvi Spells

Light/Illusion spells.

Cause an object to glow softly where touched by the caster. Most often used to leave messages.

BEAM OF NOLAR [Lyahvi/4]
Causes a beam of intense light to emanate from the caster's focus to blind, daze and even burn the target.

Peleahn Spells

Considered to most brutish and obvious convocation. Fire spells.

Used to enhance or create a small fire. Cannot create fire without fuel but can help inferior fuel burn.

ORB OF ZATARA [Peleahn/3]
The fireball spell. Create 3 to 6 fireballs that shoot out from the focus to the target. The spell notes that at low skill level the caster must have a fuel source (e.g. kindling) to create them.

Jmorvi Spells

Spells related to metal and artifice.

Used to enhance the natural properties of a metallic object. A magnet may be made more magnetic or a metal more conductive for example.

This spell can make metal armour more resistant. Basically adds armour value to a piece. This is the only way to get magic armour short of finding it or some Earthmaster artifacts.

Fyvria Spells

The spells of earth and nature.

Accelerates the natural growth of living things touched by the caster. It mentions that it won't work on things that have stopped growing (i.e. adults) but nothing about kids. This can be dispelled by the common spell but does not result in loss of growth.

BALM OF HERL [Fyvria/3]
This will transfer an ailment (not a wound) from one living creature to another. You could move a disease from one person to an animal for example.

Odivshe Spells

The control of water and liquids.

POWER OF ULMER [Odivshe/1]
Augments the natural buoyancy of an object or creature. With a bonus that a CS will cause a living creature's swimming skill to be doubled for the duration.

TOVAL'S REST [Odivshe/5]
Place an object or creature in stasis. No harm can come to the target for the duration and no time passes while under this spell.

Savorya Spells

The art of spirits and the mind.

Temporarily increase the eyesight, touch, smell/taste and hearing attributes of a target. Up to 2x scores.

JERILA'S ZONE [Savorya/5]
Create a zone of confusion where any creature failing a 4d6 roll against WILL are dazed and cannot act of their own volition until the spell ends.

Overall the Shek-Pvar section feels a bit similar to something out of Ars Magica.

Next up: Mercantyler, Prices and Campaign (and the rest).

Mercantyler, Prices and Campaign (and also Encounters, Bestiary and Treasure)

posted by Hulk Smash! Original SA post

A map of Hârn (not actually anywhere in the rulebook)


PART 7 – Mercantyler, Prices and Campaign (and also Encounters, Bestiary and Treasure)

I'm combining these sections since they are fairly short. Here we'll find treaties on taxation, coinage used in the various kingdoms of Hârn, trade routes, caravan rules, usury rates, construction costs and maritime trade. None of it is particularly thrilling but if the GM wants to simulate all of that with high-realism, and I guess the game assumes that he should, it's there to use.

When then get a few tables worth of prices ranging from blankets (10p each) and daggers (24p) to embalming services (200p) and ermine cloaks (657p). Incidentally, a 2 person tent sells for 27p so Pete won't get rich any time soon.


The rule book is very short on this subject. Contenting itself to talk about day/night cycles, the weather, keeping watch, keeping maps, movement time by terrain/mode of transport, and keeping player journals. There is nothing at all talking about the various kingdoms of Hârn, a who's who, or political climate. As noted above, there isn't even a map of Hârn in the rulebook.

All of that is found in various supplements. There's one for each kingdom of the island, a “cities of Hârn” book, a pilot's almanach dealing with trade and shipbuilding, and a comprehensive supplement called Hârnworld which includes encyclopedia-like entries for pretty much everything and even talks about the rest of the world - Hârn being located to the northwestern edge of the world map. There's a huge continent just to the east but that part of the world has never received the supplement treatment beyond what's in Hârnworld.

I'm pretty sure that the whole thing started as a world building exercise and the rules were added latter on. I guess players familiar with Hârn were expected to already have the world fluff.

A map showing Hârn in relation to part of the rest of the world. Also not in the rulebook.


We then get 3 pages of encounter tables. These range from urban, benign encounters (a funeral procession crosses the player's path) to more dangerous ones in the wild (a band of Garguns is on the rampage). Pretty standard stuff for the era.


The bestiary contains the standard fantasy tropes of giant snakes and gryphons but I'll give more details on two typically Hârnian entries; The Gargun and the Vlasta.


A Gargun

Garguns are Hârn's version of Orcs. They are much more detailed and made to be playable in the supplement “Nasty, Brutish and Short” but the rulebook still gives some important details.

Here we learn that the Garguns are not native to Kethira (the planet's name) but were likely “imported” by some guy named “Lorthrim the Foulspawner” hundreds of years ago. They have since spread to most parts of Hârn (in fact it seems they are only found on the island).

Garguns are intelligent and violent and are separated into several subspecies. The Gargu-Arak (small or streaked Orc), the Gargu-Hyeka (common or brown Orc), the Gargu-Khanu (great or black Orc), the Gargu-Kyani (white Orc), and the Gargu-Viasal (red Orc). They range in height from 3' to 4'2” feet and usually keep to their own subspecies – except when a large enough Gargu-Khanu decides to take over a tribe.

They live in loosely organized tribal societies where there is only one fertile female (the queen) who is served by a retinue of infertile females (the princesses). The queen mates with the one fertile male (the king). Queens will lay up to 80 eggs (yeah they lay eggs for some reason) every 6 months or so. About 1% of eggs hatch as female.

It then points out that females become fertile only through continued exposure to a male (and vice-versa) and that sometimes a group of males will steal an infertile female to go start a new tribe.

The Vlasta (The Eater of Eyes)

”Fuck you, that's why”

As we learned before Ivashu is the common name given to monsters spawned by the god Ilvir. There are several types and all of them are fairly dangerous. This one is just unfair.

Vlasta are Ivashu that stand about 18 inches tall and weigh 20 pounds. They travel in groups of 8-12 and are very voracious carnivores. They mostly attack rodents but will attack men if hungry/threatened. They are called the “eaters of eyes” since in combat they leap for the face of their victim and, on a successful bite (of which they have a base skill of 65%), they have a 75% chance of taking 1 or both (on CS) their eyes . No save. That's it. No more eyes for you.


This section starts with a treatise on gems. Seriously there's like a page talking about the differences between rubies, diamonds, emeralds and garnets.

We then get rules for generating treasure, how old and well preserved found written documents are, and the chances of a found weapon being adorned with gems (longknives have the best chance at 20%).

We then get some sample treasure of the “plain” magic variety and of Earthmaster origin. Here's one of each.

A staff that, when invoked, turns into a snake that attacks the designated target. If the snake is killed, the artifact is destroyed.

A prism that can be used to trap a victim into it. Victim must roll d100 under WILx5 or be trapped. Different victims are held in a separate facet of the prism. The prism will have 2d6 facets. No rules are given for letting the victims out.

Up Next: Nothing! That's it for the HârnMaster rulebook, we're done. Hopefully it was interesting.