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Thread: Harnmaster?

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    Default Harnmaster?

    So. I donated some money to DriveThruRpg for one of their latest flood relief donation drives and got a bundle of pdfs. One of them was the Harnmaster 3rd edition rules.

    The system looks interesting. No classes, levels, or hit points, and apparently the base 3rd edition rules are compatible with previous edition expansions (Magic, Religion, and such). That's pretty cool just by itself.

    Has anyone played a game or campaign of Harnmaster? It looks like it's setup to model realistic, gritty, low-magic semi-historical games. Sounds like a ton of fun - I'm just wary of being overwhelmed by learning a new system.
    "We have sent many to Hell, to smooth our way," said I, "and we are standing yet and holding blades. What more?"

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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    I've played in one long-running Harnmaster campaign, plus a couple of one-shot adventures, and quite frankly I love the system - for exactly the reasons you mention i.e. realistic, gritty, low-magic, semi-historical.

    My only minor annoyance with the system was with the "advancement" system, which can be a bit fiddly. In a nutshell for those who don't know: Harnmaster uses skill-based advancement - every time you use a skill, you record a mark for that skill. At the end of each in-game month, you roll (d100) once for every 10 marks you have in each skill use; if your roll exceeds your current skill number, you advance that skill by one point. Succeed or fail, those 10 skill marks are "spent". Any marks less than 10 or above a multiple of 10 are carried over. For example, if you have 23 marks against a skill, you roll twice against that skill to attempt to advance it, "spending" 20 marks and carrying 3 over to the next month.

    You also get a certain number of "skill points" each month that you can use to represent "behind the scenes" training - mostly used to boost "less-than-10-marks" skills up to the required multiple of 10 for a skill training roll.

    Basically it can mean a fair amount of book-keeping, and getting into the habit of remembering to mark skills every time you use them.

    The "realistic" nature of the game can also be a bit different for those used to D&D-type RPing, particularly in regards to healing. Even minor wounds can take days, weeks, or months to heal - and some are even permanent or fatal. An example: during the long-running campaign I was in, our group fought a tribe of goblins who favour arrows tainted with rotting flesh. One character (not mine) got scratched by a single arrow - a minor wound. The player rolled several poor healing/recovery rolls in a row and was dead by the next day from blood poisoning (a roll to resist initial infection, plus additional rolls later as the infection spread and started to hit major organs).

    All in all, I consider it totally worth the effort to learn. The learning curve is not that steep, and with the right kind of players (i.e. those who don't expect it to be D&D-esque) it can be loads of fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dexam View Post
    I've played in one long-running Harnmaster campaign, plus a couple of one-shot adventures, and quite frankly I love the system - for exactly the reasons you mention i.e. realistic, gritty, low-magic, semi-historical.

    My only minor annoyance with the system was with the "advancement" system, which can be a bit fiddly. In a nutshell for those who don't know: Harnmaster uses skill-based advancement - every time you use a skill, you record a mark for that skill. At the end of each in-game month, you roll (d100) once for every 10 marks you have in each skill use; if your roll exceeds your current skill number, you advance that skill by one point. Succeed or fail, those 10 skill marks are "spent". Any marks less than 10 or above a multiple of 10 are carried over. For example, if you have 23 marks against a skill, you roll twice against that skill to attempt to advance it, "spending" 20 marks and carrying 3 over to the next month.

    You also get a certain number of "skill points" each month that you can use to represent "behind the scenes" training - mostly used to boost "less-than-10-marks" skills up to the required multiple of 10 for a skill training roll.

    Basically it can mean a fair amount of book-keeping, and getting into the habit of remembering to mark skills every time you use them.

    The "realistic" nature of the game can also be a bit different for those used to D&D-type RPing, particularly in regards to healing. Even minor wounds can take days, weeks, or months to heal - and some are even permanent or fatal. An example: during the long-running campaign I was in, our group fought a tribe of goblins who favour arrows tainted with rotting flesh. One character (not mine) got scratched by a single arrow - a minor wound. The player rolled several poor healing/recovery rolls in a row and was dead by the next day from blood poisoning (a roll to resist initial infection, plus additional rolls later as the infection spread and started to hit major organs).

    All in all, I consider it totally worth the effort to learn. The learning curve is not that steep, and with the right kind of players (i.e. those who don't expect it to be D&D-esque) it can be loads of fun.
    That actually sounds like an awesome way of advancement... If you think about it, in real life you would advance a skill after using that skill enough, which mirrors well in the game and it's harder as you go along, because you can only be so good at something and once you get good at it, it's hard to get better if you know that skill like the back of your hand. Not much more new stuff to learn about it. I love the part about damage too, as that could very well happen to someone irl... Wow, this sounds like the system for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Otherworld Odd View Post
    That actually sounds like an awesome way of advancement... If you think about it, in real life you would advance a skill after using that skill enough, which mirrors well in the game and it's harder as you go along, because you can only be so good at something and once you get good at it, it's hard to get better if you know that skill like the back of your hand. Not much more new stuff to learn about it. I love the part about damage too, as that could very well happen to someone irl... Wow, this sounds like the system for me.
    It *is* a good system, it can just get a book-keeping heavy at times.

    The "damage/healing" system is similar - you keep track of each individual wound received. Every wound has a body location, severity rating (going from memory: minor, moderate, severe, critical), and associated penalty (e.g. an eye wound will apply a penalty to all sight-related skills and abilities, a foot wound will penalise movement-related skills and abilities, etc).

    To heal, you roll for each wound, and a successful roll decreases the severity by one category. The problem is that with natural healing you get one roll per wound per in-game week, and more severe wounds have a harder target to succeed against, so some wounds can take months to heal. The best magical healing spell in the game will allow you one additional healing roll per day, but only against one wound; for example, if you've got three wounds, the spell needs to be cast three times - if fail all three healings rolls, bad luck, wait until tomorrow to try again.

    If you like the damage system, you'll love the combat system - each weapon has three different bonuses, depending if you want to use it to slash, stab, or bludgeon. Each armour has different "defense" ratings against each attack type (plus a rating for fire & magical attacks) to show how much damage is absorbed. When attacked, defenders choose if they want to dodge the attack, parry/block the attack (assuming they have a weapon or shield), or counter-attack (which pretty much guarantees that the defender will be hit).
    On a successful parries, rolls are made to see if each weapon is damaged or will break. Every attack there is a roll made to see which body location is being targeted, and each body location can be individually armoured, even with different layers of armour. For example, a character might be wearing leather boots and gauntlets, plate-mail bracers and greaves, a chain-mail gambeson with cloth shirt underneath and hardened leather breastplate over the top.

    If you like "realistic" or "gritty" games, this is one of the best game systems I've found.

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    It's a good game, but can be a bit fiddly mechanically. It's not particularly elegant, but you get a good gritty feeling setting.

    The healing rules are famously harsh and have already been mentioned.

    I seem to remember that a sheep costs less than a prostitute for the night. So if you're not to fussy and on a low budget, you can have a good night AND have mutton for breakfast.

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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    That sounds like a game that would immensely profit from a good computer program, actually, one which calculates attack effects for you. Enter skills, kind of armour, weapon and so on, it gives you what you hit and how hard.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2010-11-24 at 07:22 AM.
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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    I kept reading this as 'Hammaster' and was vastly confused as to why they would choose such a silly name for what was sounding serious.

    What is a Harn?

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    I'm guessing I'm not the only immature German speaker who giggled when he first read that name, by the way.

    (It means "urine" in German.)
    Last edited by Eldan; 2010-11-24 at 08:09 AM.
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    ...I'm not sure now if Hammaster would be a sillier name or not.

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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    I'm also reasonably sure the creators weren't thinking of that when they named it. Given that they spell it "Hârn" usually, I'm guessing it's something that's explained in the fluff.
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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    Thanks for the great review.

    It does sound like a game I'd like but I don't think I have the time or the right bunch of players for it right now. Le sigh. What other Hârn books would you recommend I get?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psyx View Post
    It's a good game, but can be a bit fiddly mechanically. It's not particularly elegant, but you get a good gritty feeling setting.

    The healing rules are famously harsh and have already been mentioned.

    I seem to remember that a sheep costs less than a prostitute for the night. So if you're not to fussy and on a low budget, you can have a good night AND have mutton for breakfast.
    That.. what... oh wow. That's .. nasty...

    On an unrelated note, this game sounds like it's hell on wheels to keep track of, bookkeeping wise. Every time you get hit, you have to record at least three different things? Each of which will get rolled against on a periodic basis to see if it improves or degrades? Rough.
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    Default Re: Harnmaster?

    so, it's a d20 dwarffortress? Awsome!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dexam View Post
    It *is* a good system, it can just get a book-keeping heavy at times.

    The "damage/healing" system is similar - you keep track of each individual wound received. Every wound has a body location, severity rating (going from memory: minor, moderate, severe, critical), and associated penalty (e.g. an eye wound will apply a penalty to all sight-related skills and abilities, a foot wound will penalise movement-related skills and abilities, etc).

    To heal, you roll for each wound, and a successful roll decreases the severity by one category. The problem is that with natural healing you get one roll per wound per in-game week, and more severe wounds have a harder target to succeed against, so some wounds can take months to heal. The best magical healing spell in the game will allow you one additional healing roll per day, but only against one wound; for example, if you've got three wounds, the spell needs to be cast three times - if fail all three healings rolls, bad luck, wait until tomorrow to try again.

    If you like the damage system, you'll love the combat system - each weapon has three different bonuses, depending if you want to use it to slash, stab, or bludgeon. Each armour has different "defense" ratings against each attack type (plus a rating for fire & magical attacks) to show how much damage is absorbed. When attacked, defenders choose if they want to dodge the attack, parry/block the attack (assuming they have a weapon or shield), or counter-attack (which pretty much guarantees that the defender will be hit).
    On a successful parries, rolls are made to see if each weapon is damaged or will break. Every attack there is a roll made to see which body location is being targeted, and each body location can be individually armoured, even with different layers of armour. For example, a character might be wearing leather boots and gauntlets, plate-mail bracers and greaves, a chain-mail gambeson with cloth shirt underneath and hardened leather breastplate over the top.

    If you like "realistic" or "gritty" games, this is one of the best game systems I've found.
    Oh... wow. O.o. I was thinking of characters that I could roll up if I ever got a chance to play this game and instantly a battle medic came to mind, thinking it would be helpful. Now it seems like... uhh... kinda pointless I guess. Lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I'm also reasonably sure the creators weren't thinking of that when they named it. Given that they spell it "Hârn" usually, I'm guessing it's something that's explained in the fluff.
    Relevânt linkâge.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chambers View Post
    Thanks for the great review.

    It does sound like a game I'd like but I don't think I have the time or the right bunch of players for it right now. Le sigh. What other Hârn books would you recommend I get?
    Hârn Religion and Hârn Magic are exceedingly useful if you want to play a priest or Shek Pvar (mage).

    Quote Originally Posted by Quietus View Post
    On an unrelated note, this game sounds like it's hell on wheels to keep track of, bookkeeping wise. Every time you get hit, you have to record at least three different things? Each of which will get rolled against on a periodic basis to see if it improves or degrades? Rough.
    You do get used to it, once you get out of the D&D-esque mindset. For example, short-hand on character sheets like this: LL,M1,-5,3; RA,S2,-10,1. Translations: Left Leg (LL) has a Minor wound (M1) imposing a -5 to relevant d100 rolls, wound was received 3 days ago; Right Arm (RA) has a Serious wound (S2) imposing a -10 to relevant d100 rolls, wound received 1 day ago.

    Usually you don't have that many wounds to keep track of - as wound penalties are cumulative, once you get more than 2 or 3 wounds, you tend to stop and rest to heal up, otherwise you'll end up as worm food.

    As for getting hit - try not to. Combat characters tend to pump their Dodge skill, parry as much as possible, block (if you have a shield), wear the best armour you can find, or outright avoid combat situations - especially if you are on time-sensitive adventures or missions. Getting wounded is not a good idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fouredged Sword View Post
    so, it's a d20 dwarffortress? Awsome!
    Except it uses 3d6 for attribute generation, and d100 for skill and most other checks. No d20's involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by Otherworld Odd View Post
    Oh... wow. O.o. I was thinking of characters that I could roll up if I ever got a chance to play this game and instantly a battle medic came to mind, thinking it would be helpful. Now it seems like... uhh... kinda pointless I guess. Lol.
    Don't get discouraged - healing-oriented Priests or Shek Pvar can be extremely powerful in-game. There are some spells and prayers that can be used to instantly reduce wound severity (i.e. turing a Grievous wound into a Serious or Minor wound); however in the campaign I was in, healing tended to take place out of combat.

    Forget the D&D idea of 'walking sack of hit points' - it's entirely possible for the strongest character in the world to be killed by a single extremely lucky blow by an untrained peasant with a sharpened stick.

    Like I said - gritty and realistic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psyx View Post
    It's a good game, but can be a bit fiddly mechanically. It's not particularly elegant, but you get a good gritty feeling setting.

    The healing rules are famously harsh and have already been mentioned.

    I seem to remember that a sheep costs less than a prostitute for the night. So if you're not to fussy and on a low budget, you can have a good night AND have mutton for breakfast.
    I guess i should be happy that it took me a minute to get that...
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    That sounds like a game that would immensely profit from a good computer program, actually, one which calculates attack effects for you. Enter skills, kind of armour, weapon and so on, it gives you what you hit and how hard.
    You know what game does just that? Dwarf Fortress!
    What can it not do?

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    Harnmaster is intended to be put ina a binder and organized in such a way that expansions are just added to the ends of chapters as you get them. All in all it seems well organized. Also it seems the publishers will print on demand out of print things if you ask them which is nice.

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    I have to say, Harnmaster sounds great. Gritty and realistic, just the way I like it. The mention of bookkeeping is a turn-off, though. I'm notoriously bad with this sort of thing in D&D.
    How do magic and non-human races work in this game, by the way?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I have to say, Harnmaster sounds great. Gritty and realistic, just the way I like it. The mention of bookkeeping is a turn-off, though. I'm notoriously bad with this sort of thing in D&D.
    How do magic and non-human races work in this game, by the way?
    Haha, did I bring you here, Morty?

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    Well, yeah. If it hadn't been for the link, I wouldn't have noticed the thread.
    Last edited by Morty; 2010-12-03 at 01:03 PM.
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    This system sounds insanely awesome. I too wonder what the magic is like. With wound rules like that they can't be too powerful. From the looks of it even 1st-2nd level DnD spells would clean house.

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