Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Walk through Harnmaster - Physicians


This is a four page article.

So now we get into how your heal from the injuries you suffered in combat.

Society of Physicians

This section gives some details about the life of physicians on Harn. The main difference is that they know the value of basic antisepsis (keeping things clean) although don't know why it works the way it does. And there are magical options available although they are covered elsewhere.

Injury Recovery

From the previous example Bjorn has a S2, Serious Slash to the Thorax from the fight. How does he heal? He has to be treated and there is a table for that.


From the previous post, Bjorn is going to need surgery i.e. his gash needs to be cleaned and sewn up. A physician roll will get +20 as his cut not that complex to deal. This number comes from the EML (Effective Mastery Level) column. The next five columns list the result of the different levels of success plus what happens when there is no treatment (NT). If the Physician rolls a marginal success (MS). Bjorn's player now records that injury has a Healing rate of H5.

Each injury is treated separately.

Rob's Comment
The bonus EML for different injuries means a party member without anybody with a physician roll can take a stab at treating their friend. As you can see even a Critical Failure is better than No Treatment. (Sorry misread the table). The skill open up automatically at SBx1 when the attempt is made. There are also Herbs that give a further bonus by either knocking out the character to fighting infection. However there is a risk in a critical failure being rolled making the injury worse.


Once Bjorn has been treated he can now begin to heal. From the previous example he has a H5 rate. This means every five days of rest, he can make a healing roll. A healing roll is roll against the Healing Rate (H) of the injury time Endurance. In Bjorn case his Endurance is 12 so with a H5 healing rate he makes his healing roll verus 60%.  Also for human characters the healing roll is made every 5 days irregardless of the Healing Rate.

The goal of the healing roll is to have the Injury reduced to zero. For the first five days of rest Bjorn rolls a 56 and gets a Marginal Success (MS). His serious slash goes from 2 to 1. The second five days Bjorn rolls a 72, a marginal failure, and has no healing. The third five days, Bjorn rolls a 35 which is a Critical Success (CS), and heals the remainder of his injury. I would probably rule that he is healed three days in with that result. So Bjorn is out for 15 days healing from his fight.

There are spells, herbs, etc that can speed this up. The most common are herbs. For example injuries treated with Ichor of Agrik/Berilik Balm a paste made from Berilik Herb (Dragonhead) have half the normal chance of developing an infection. So if a Critical Failure (CF) is rolled and Berilik Balm is applied, roll a d6. On a 1-3 the infection doesn't happen.

yeah the Herblore article even has pictures of each type of herb.

There are two optional rules. One is how to treat Bloodloss if that rule is used in combat. The other adding a Diagnosis roll which add a bonus to the Effective Mastery Level (EML) either +10 for a Marginal Sucess (MS) or +30 for a Critical Success (CS). The authors leave to GM's discretion whether to apply a penalty for a failed roll. I don't recommend doing that, Harnmaster is pretty brutal to begin with.

There also mechanics covering how to use this for disease. Basically diseases are given a contagion index and a healing rate. You multiply the character's endurance by the Contagion Index (CI) to see if they save against the disease. If they fail then they contract the disease starting at the listed Healing Rate. A C1/H1 disease will kill most of the population.

Lingering effects of poisons are handled in the same way.

Instead of Injury levels going down, the healing roll for disease raise and lower the Healing Rate. At H0 the character dies and at H6 the character is free of disease/infection/poison. This healing roll is made every day.

That it for injury recovery, there is a lot packed into four pages of mechanics and like a lot of Harnmaster it handle the details in a straightforward manner that feels like how it would go in a medieval setting.

The previous post was Combat Part 2; The next post is Psionics.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Walk through Harnmaster - Combat Part 2

Combat Part 2

Melee Attack Sequence

So now you are engaged and ready to attack. This section use the Harnmaster Combat Tables which you can download.

The attacker declares what aspect of their weapon they are using (B/E/P) and whether they are aiming High (-10), Mid (0), or Low (10)

Athelstan with a 55 sword skill attacks with the edge of his broadsword (impact bonus of 5) aiming for the mid section (+0)

The defender either ignores the attack due to various circumstances, or if is active whether they Counterstrike, Block, or Dodge.

Bjorn with a 46 shield skill elects to block the swing with his round shield.

Both sides rolls, the attack uses his Attacker Mastery Level, and the Defender uses his Defender Mastery Level

  • Athelstan will have to roll equal to or less than a 70 (55 ML + 15 A)
  • Bjorn will have to roll equal to or less than at 66 (46 ML + 20 D)

The success levels are compared and the result apply

  • Athelstan rolls a 55 a Critical Success
  • Bjorn rolls a 68 a Marginal Failure

If the result is an injury, strike impact is rolled, strike location is rolled, and the armor protection is subtracted. If the result is 1+ then an injury has occured.

Cross indexing the two success levels results a A*2 results. Which means you roll 2d6 + 5 (the impact bonus of the edge of the broadsword).

Able rolls a 6 giving an 11 impact. Able rolls a 58 for Strike Location hitting the Thorax

Bjorn is wearing a Leather Vest over a Cloth Shirt giving a protection value of 5 versus Edge impacts. So Bjorn suffers a 6 impact.

Other results

AF, DF, and BF are fumbles, you have to make a fumble roll or lose your weapon (or shield).

Block means the defending weapon (a shield in this case) intercepts the attacking weapon (the Broadsword). If you use weapon damage then the lower quality weapon has to make a save first or be functionally destroyed. If the save is made then it is the higher WQ that has to save. I recommend using this optional roll. It is a 3d6 roll low versus the weapon's WQ. There even a more brutal variant where even you make a weapon save its WQ is reduced by 1 although it still works. This seems a bit unrealistically harsh. If you want to do this drop the WQ if you make the save exactly or by 1 anything lower the weapon is fine.

A DTA is a Defender Tactical Advantage, once each turn a character may gain a Tactical Advantage. They are allowed to take another action that turn. The most extreme result is that Athelstan attacks rolls badly, Bjorn gets a Tactical Advantage and attack back also rolling badly, Athelstan gain a Tactical Advantage and attack again hopefully not rolling badly again. Any further DTA are ignored.

Injury Determination

So now Bjorn got slashed across the thorax (upper chest) with 6 impact. Now it time to figure out his injury. We cross index the hit location with the impact to get a injury level. In this case an S2 results or a Serious Thorax Slash 2. It is recorded on the character sheet as Thorax S2.

The 2 is now added to the character Universal Penalty and for this injury the character has to make a shock roll. Remember the Universal Penalty is Injury + Fatigue but not Encumbrance. For every point of UP you roll 1d6. In this case Bjorn roll 2d6. If Bjorn rolls over his Endurance (average of STR, STA, and WIL) he collapses in shock. Now Bjorn has 14 STR, 12 STA, and a 10 WILL giving a END 12. He not going into shock for this injury.

If you look at the arm location above the Thorax there is a diamond. This is a symbol for a fumble roll as it is the arm. For the legs it is a stumble roll. Some Grievous wounds to the Legs and Arms also have a upside down triangle this is a amputation roll. K results are potential instant kills. If the character doesn't die then it is converted to a Grievous wounds now the character has to make a shock roll.

The end result is that after combat the character will have a list of injury they suffered. The total of which is applied to their Universal Penalty.

Rob's Comments
I generally don't like to use tables when refereeing. But these tables are excellent to use and don't slow down play. The bright layout makes it easy to figure the result of any strike. If one wants details for combat this is an excellent way to go.

More than any other system, I find the injury system of Harnmaster gets the players invested in their character. It tersely but graphically illustrates every injury and blow the character suffers. And it just adds something to experience that other system don't have.

The sidebar to injuries give several options rules. I recommend using Bloodloss. If a grievous injury is not bound up within 1 minute (6 rounds) then the character will suffer 1 Bloodloss that adds to the UP. If the total BP exceeds Endurance the character dies. Each grievous wound counts separately for bloodloss.

Beastly Blows

This section give special combat rules for Wings, Tails, and Tentacles

Missile Combat

Works similarly to Melee Combat. Defenders can Block or Dodge (or has to Ignore). The AML of the attack is modified for range. And potential impact is modified for range as well. Missile use their own combat matrix which generates hit or miss results.

Initiative Testing & Morale

For NPCs initiative is used for Morale Checks. This page covers the details and the results.

Mounted Combat

This section covers mounted combat in six pages.
The different Horse breeds are covered and their statistics along with the use of Riding Skill, Horse movement, how to command the horse in combat, and how actions work when mounted. Being mounted is an advantage especially in the impact rating generated for hitting and gives some damage opportunities not available on foot like steed trampling.


The final two pages of Combat covers Jousting. There are some specific rules and notes covering the non-lethal aspect of the joust. Along with a unique combat matrix for resolving Joust strikes.

Next up is Physician cover what you do about all those injuries and why the battle isn't done when combat ends

Previous post was Combat Part 1, Next Post is Physican

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A walk through Harnmaster - Combat Part 1


This is a 26 page article

First off if you have trouble following any of this I strongly recommend downloading and reading Bill Gant's Harnmaster Combat vs D20 Combat Essay.

Scale and Components

Harnamaster supports miniatures and this section has the author's recommendation on what scale to use. Namely 1 inch = 5 feet, that you use 25 mm miniatures, and a hexgrid is preferred. It also goes on to say that if you don't use a hexgrid then just multiply all references to hexes by five to get the number of feet.

Combat Profile

Explains the combat profile portion of the character sheet and its most import elements

  • Endurance: The ability to tolerate and recover from physical ordeal. It is the average of Strength, Stamina, and Will.
  • Move: The number of hexes a character can move in 10 seconds (a round). It equal to the character's agility so a human can move up to 50 feet in a 10 second round.
  • Dodge: An automatic skill that opens at Agility x 5. This can be improved as a skill.
  • Load: The information is repeated from Characters. Basically the weight the character carries divided by Endurance.
  • Encumbrance Penalty: see above


Harnmaster has a variety of choices for weapons. It not exhaustive like GURPS Martial Arts and focuses on the medieval along with some selections from the Roman Era.

Each weapon is rated for the following: A - Attacking skill bonus; D- Defending skill bonus; WT - Weight; WQ - Weapon Quality; Impact Values (B/E/P) - Bonus to impact for Blunt, Edge, and Point; Then Price in d (silver pennies);


Next combat discusses Armor. Just as weapons have impact bonuses for different aspects (Blunt, Edge, Point) Different types of Armor defends better against various weapons aspects plus there is a rating for resisting fire.

While tersely written, it is a fiddly part of Harnmaster/ Like many of the other fiddly parts it is front loaded onto the character sheet before play.

Armor nuances

Harnmaster is at the high end for the number of hit locations. You buy armor in pieces and layers of armor stack on top of each other. Eventually the weight will radically degrade your combat capabilities but for most characters there is a sweet spot of protection for what they can carry.

For example you don't just wear a Chain Hauberk you also wear a Quilt Gambeson. This give the extra padding especially for blunt attack to resist injury.

If you get the boxed set you will also get a GM Screen that has a chart listing the totals for common combinations of armor layers.

The good news if you armor your character like you see an medieval illustration you will be just as protected in-game as in real life.

There an optional rule to damage armor if the character suffers a high impact injury. The high impact creates or tears a hole in the armor. It fiddly and I have never used it as it involves an extra roll in future rounds.


This section explains movement. Basically a walk is half move, a jog is a full move, running is double move, and sprinting is triple move. The primary mechanical effect is how much fatigue you gain while moving. It doesn't come up often in combat as sprinting causes 1 FL per 1 minute (6 rounds) of sprinting.

Engagement Zones

Like some other RPG, active characters exert a zone of control. Harnmaster sets this at five feet around the character. The effect is that if you are engaged you can only move one hex per round (any direction). If you were not engaged before moving next to the opponent you must stop movement. Engagement Zones can overlap and a single character can be engaged with up to six opponents.

There is an optional rule allowing the Engagement Zone to be extended to 10 feet for long reach weapons.

Another optional rule is the reaction zone. The reaction zone extends as far as the character can move. If an opponent starts outside of the character's reaction zone then the opponent must stop if they move into it. If the opponent starts within another character's reaction they can move normal. The point of the rule is to give the character a change to intercept somebody if they move within their move range.

Combat Sequence

Harnmaster uses 10 second combat rounds.

The character with the highest initiative goes first. If two character are tied then go with the higher skill base, any further ties resolved with a 1d10 or 1d6 roll.

You can do one action: Res, Pass, Free Move (up to running or move x2) , Engage (half move and optionally attack), Charge (full move and must attack), Disenage (move 1 hex, and do a half move), Rise, Grope (using anything with DEX), Melee Attack, Missile Attack (Load or Fire for a crossbow, Load/Ready & Fire for everything else), Grapple Attack, Esoteric Attack (magic or psionics).

There are optional rules for

  • Surprise
  • Engage Initiative: when engaging first time both roll initiative, if the defender has a higher success they can perform an attack
  • Combat Fatigue: Two variants for suffering Fatigue during combat. I recommend #2 each character suffer 1 Fatigue for every 5 minutes (30 rounds) of combat.

Previous post is Skills, Next post is Combat Part 2

Monday, April 27, 2020

A walk through Harnmaster - Skills


This is a 24 page article.

In a nutshell skills are checked with a d100 rolled low. If you roll equal to or less than your skill level +/- modifiers then you succeeded. If you roll a 0 or 5 on the last die it is a critical result. Most resolution tables list four entries: Critical Failure, Failure, Success, and Critical Success.

Skill Base

What your skill level starts out at is based on your Skill Base. The Skill Base is an average of three attributes. This is one of the more fiddly bits of Harnmaster but like much of the other fiddly bits it is frontloaded when you create the character.

Once you calculate your skill base you add in a modifier for your sunsign.

For example the skill base for Stealth is an average of Agility, Hearing, and Will. So a character with an Agility of 12, Hearing of 15, and a Will of 9 will have a skill base of 12 (12+15+9 = 36 /3 = 12). If the character had the Hirin (Eagle), Tareal (Pentacle), or Tai (Lantern Bearer) sunsign they would get a +2 bonus for a SB of 14. Note that fractions are rounded to the nearest whole number. So a total of 35 would round to 12 (11.6667) but a total of 34 would round to 11 (11.3333).

Rob's Comment
I recommend using a printout made form a spreadsheet of triple values. A list of totals and their calculated skill base. Like the one I made for my campaign that your can download from here.

Using Skill Base

When you open a skill there is a opening mastery level modifiers under the Opening Mastery Level or OML column. So when the character starts out with stealth their initial skill level is SB x3. So using my example with a SB of 12 the character would have a Mastery Level (skill level or ML) of 36%.

When you go through character generation, the skills you get often have a higher OML. Using the Hunter Trapper from the previous post. We see the Hunter/Trapper opens stealth at SB x4 not SB x3. The above character with a SB of 12 would start out with a ML of 48%, 56% if the character had one of the three sunsigns that influences Stealth due to the SB of 14.

Note that any skill in all caps are default skills. 

The other role Skill Base plays is that it determines your max skill level (100 + SB), and higher SB makes improving skills easier.

Mastery Level (ML)

Harnmaster calls skill level, Mastery Level. Unfortunately they opt for a bit of jargon.

  • OML: Opening Mastery Level, The multiplier used to determine the initial Mastery Level when the character obtains a skill.
  • EML: Effective Mastery Level, Your mastery level plus or minus any modifiers. This is what you roll against.

Your minimum EML is always 5%, your maximum EML is always 95%

Skill Index (SI)

This is your Mastery Level divided by 10 (rounded down). This is used in several mechanics where you are able to do more with a higher SI. They don't give a spot for it on your character sheet as it is always the first number of your Mastery Level.


An optional rule to allow for more fine grained skills. Some skills you can have specialties and improve them separately. You can start taking specialties at ML 40+. The advantage is that you can improve a specialty twice as fast as the broad skill. An example is Musician and different instrument. Or Swords and the different sword types. I recommend using this rule. And for @TristramEvans the specialties for Lovecraft are specifically noted at the GM's discretion.

Skill Table

I showed you a slice of the skill table above. It is divided into Physical, Communication, Religion, Combat, and Craft & Lore. The Craft & Lore is the longest list.

Each skill has its Name, the Skill Base attributes, Sunsign modifiers, OML, and suggested specialities.

Skill Testing

Here the rules talk about how to have player test their character skills. A marginal success is rolling equal to or less than your Effective Mastery Level. Otherwise it is a marginal failure. Any roll ending in a 0 or 5 is a critical result.

Opposed Skill Checks

Harnmaster looks at relative success, Marginal Success versus Critical Failure for example. The higher success level wins with Critical Success being the highest. If both character roll the same success level then it is either a tie, or who ever rolls the lowest wins if a tie is not relevant. In practice using this is straight forward and fast with no math involved.

The Universal Penalty

Character get injured, or get tired, Harnmaster folds these conditions into the Universal Penalty.

The Universal Penalty that is a number from 0 to X. It applies in one of two ways.

You add the number to any save you have to roll with d6s versus one of your attributes
You multiply 5 and it reduces your EML that you roll against.

For example a Universal Penalty of 5 means that your skill levels are reduced by -25%, and your add +5 to any xd6 rolls versus your attributes.

The Universal Penalty is made up of the following.

Injury Penalty

Every injury that the character suffer is rated from 1 to 5. Adding together all your injuries gives you your character's injury penalty.

Fatigue Penalty

If your character exerted themselves strenuously for 5 minutes or more then they add one Fatigue level. Casting spells or using Psionics also adds Fatigue level.

Your Universal Penalty is the sum of your Injury Penalty and Fatigue Penalty.

Physical Penalty

For physical activities like combat, climbing, or stealth. You also have to add in your Encumbrance Penalty. This total is the Physical Penalty.

The Enumberance Penalty is calculated by adding up the weight of everything you are carrying and dividing it by the character's endurance. So if the character carrying 60 lbs and their endurance is 15 then their EP is 4.

Rob's Comment
Encumbrance is generally considered fiddly in most systems and this no different. However it easier than most as it is handled by dividing the weight carried by encumbrance. It fits with the gritty medieval theme of Harnmaster. Finally it why the high combat skills of characters with military skills is important. The high mastery levels represents in part the training they got with having gear on.

If you don't want to account for every item in encumbrance then just total up the weapons and armor/clothing worn and tack on 10 or 20 lbs for gear.

Skill Development

When a character gets a development roll you roll 1d100 + Skill Base. If it exceeds your Mastery Level then the ML goes up by one. Up by 2 if it is a specialty.

Skill Development Rolls

Characters get Skill Development rolls for
  • Study/Practice, HM assume that throughout a month Character practice and study their skills. There is an optional to increase this if the character has high Will
  • Employment and Instruction, bonuses are given for job related skills and for being taught by somebody with a higher ML.
  • Stressful/Bonus Experience, the referee can award bonus development rolls after adventures that test the character's skills. The author encourage to give these out for failures as well as successes.
All of this part of a subsystem using Skill Maintenance Points. It sounds fiddly but it only one page and what it amounts to is that character get three development rolls a month, one roll for 40 hours of work, or 10 hours of instruction. There is an optional rule where you have to use SMPs to maintain skills you HAVEN'T used. But I never used that option.

Rob's Comment
I like this a lot. GURPS has some of this but Harnmaster's take is far cleaner and easier to use provided you don't use Skill Maintenance. I have a house rule that you double your gain if you roll a critical on your development roll. (2 for broad skills, 4 for specialties). I like that you automatically get 3 rolls a month which helps greatly with players feeling free to poke and muddle around. Otherwise they feel like they need to get into scrapes in order to advance all the time.

The Skills

Pages 8 to 19 are the descriptions of the skills and their mechanics. A lot of stuff in these pages so I will highlight a couple.


Jumping is an example of a skill using the Critical Failure to Critical Success scale. The numbers present the percentage of the character's height that they are able to jump.


Example of a description only skill.

Stealth is tested when a character attempts to move without being detected. It can only be applied in situations where an observer would not automatically see the sneaker. The attempt presumes reasonable cover and/or poor light. EML is modified for distance to the target, available cover, etc. Rolling any failure indicates detection, although with MF it may be reasonable to test Awareness of potential observers.

Languages and Scripts

The description for both are several paragraphs. When we get to treasure you will see that not only knowing a language matters but the script in which it written matters as well. Luckily since this focuses on Harn there isn't an overwhelming number of choices although the author does touches briefly on the rest of the world.

Craft/Lore Skills

Most of these skills can only opened after a period of training with a teacher following the instruction rules in skill development. In some way this section along with combat are the heart and soul of a Harn character. There is a fair amount of terse detail packed in here.

Combat Skills

Combat skills are easy to get, you can open them after just one combat with a relevant weapon. However after ML 70 you can only improve them through bonus development rolls gained in actual combat.


This skill can only be improved through bonus development rolls gained as a result of combat. This skill typically not roll but used to determine the order of initiative.

Value Enhancement
Product Quality

These three section give general mechanics for using the Craft/Lore skills focusing on items and good that you can make with these skills. It one page.

Attribute Testing

This section get into the different ways you can use your attributes. It is two pages and covers the basic in the usual detailed but terse Harn style.

Example Lifting

Normal, healthy characters can lift Strength × 10 pounds, at least briefly, with little or no difficulty. When attempting to lift heavier loads, the table (below) is consulted. The table assumes loads can be conveniently gripped with both hands/arms. Awkward loads are more difficult. Lifting tests are subject to Physical Penalty

It is possible to successfully lift a weight and then find it too heavy to hold. Once a load is lifted, an immediate Carrying Test is required.

Mental Conflict

I haven't used this section much. However in two pages it give a system to resolves things like psionic attacks, possession, ethereal conflicts, and control of a magical artifact. It simplified compared to Harn combat with a single table resolving attack and defense. While different things can happen the immediate result of mental conflict is gaining fatigue levels and perhaps passing out.

That it for skills, next is the big one COMBAT!
Previous post is Characters, Next Post is Combat Part 1

Follow Ups

Starting Wealth

Charles ask a question about starting wealth. On Character 17 there is this table

But there no mechanics associated with the table. Instead the section is a series of guidelines outlining things like Family Weath, Clothling & Possessions, Weapon & Armour, etc. 

The oversight here is that the original release of Harn had three things: the map, Harnview book, and the Harndex book. In Harnview there was a section called the Pre-game. It has some of the family and social class tables and information found in the first section of character but it also goes onto explain that the referee should run a mini-sessions to flesh out the character's background with the player. This was in the 1st edition of Harnmaster but the specifics was spread out among the product line in later editions and printings. 

The table above along with the income values for various occupations work with that idea. If the character was realtively successful in the Pre-game then a value from the Rich column would be warranted. If the character pre-game was neither good or bad, then use the Average column. If the pre-game didn't go so good then Poor column should be used. 

For a more specific method, Harnmaster 1st edition recommed 1d3 month of wages from the character's occupation plus some clothing, tools, weapons, etc based on their estrangment, social class, and occupation. 

For example in a recent Harn campaign I ran, two of the players were part of the Aleath City Guard. So they had quilt gambeson, spears, and daggers from their service. As well as some coins that the players used in part ot augment their equipment.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Walk through Harnmaster - Characters


This is a 30 page article detailing how to generate characters

Generating Characters

The steps for making a Harnmaster Character are

  1. GM tells the players which optional rules are in play for this game.
  2. Generate Birth, Appearance, Physical, and Personality attributes.
  3. Determine Parent Occupation. You may accept this occupation for your own or seek a new career.
  4. Determine Automatic, Occupational, Family, and Optional skills.
  5. Determine Equipment & Funds.
  6. Determine Contacts.
  7. Veterans (optional). The last step is to allow the players or referee to make experienced characters otherwise they are starting out around age 18 to 22.

Character Profiles

A short section explaining the Harnmaster character sheet (called a profile) and how to minimize the need to copy the information to a new sheet.

Birth Attributes

Details the circumstances the characters are born into. You either pick them or roll them randomly. They include in order
  • Species: Human, Sindarin (elf), Khuzdal (dwarf), Other (GM Discretion)
  • Sex
  • Birthdate and Sunsign (Harnic Zodiac)
  • Birthplace, either pick or use the charts in Harnworld.
  • Culture: Imperial (Tharda), Feudal, Viking (Orbaalese), Tribal, Sindarin, or Khuzan.
  • Social Class: Slave, Serf, Unguilded, Guilded, or Noble
So a fiddly bit of Harnmaster is the sunsign. Your character will have one of 24 possibilities. Either a single sunsign or a be born on a cusp and benefit from two sunsigns. The sunsign modify the starting level of certain skills. Once character gen is done it rarely comes up. I always used it something unique to Harnmaster, add flavor, and because it is only dealt with during Character Gen or getting a new skill.

Now the biggie Social Class. Most character will be from a Feudal culture and that means they will likely start off as Serfs if random rolls are used. Luckily this section is either choice or 1d100. The first few times with Harnmaster it will be fun to come up with various explanation of why your character is adventuring despite being born a serf. But it gets repetitive.

Family Development

This section develops the character's immediate family. Which could be important, just flavor or not a factor at all. It mostly focuses on the character relationship and is not a family/clan generator.

You roll for
  • Sibling Rank: Eldest to 6th Child.
  • Parental Relationship: Offspring, Fostered, Adopted, Bastard, Orphan
  • Estrangement: A 1d100 roll to see how good your relationship is with the clan or extended family.
  • Clanhead: How closely you are related to the head of the family/clan.
  • Appearance Attributes:
  • Here you generate by species some of the physical attributes of the character.
  • Height
  • Frame
  • Weight: Calculated
  • Comeliness: 3d6 roll

As an option you can roll Complexion, Hair Color, and Eye Color

Physical Attributes

Harn uses 3d6 for attributes. It has more attributes but only some of are what is called a key attribute. These are attribute used most often in the rest of the system.

Rob's Comment
What I have done is a straight 3d6 roll for non key attributes. But because of the importance of keyed attributes I have players roll 4d6 drop the lowest die. Do this seven times and arrange among the keyed attributes.

The physical attributes are
  • Strength: Key
  • Stamina: Key
  • Dexterity: Key
  • Agility: Key
  • Eyesight
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Voice


Here you can roll 1d100 to see what medical condition the players can have. A sample of the table is below. The rules are vague whether the roll is optional or not. There is a 30% change (71+) that the character will have no medical traits, and a 5% they will have multiple traits (66-70)

Rob's Comment
I strongly recommend making this roll optional and using the optional rule in the sidebar that gives the players a reward a two points to be place in a attribute if they risk a roll on this table. The feel of gambling with the character's fate adds to the char gen process.

Personality Attributes

  • Intelligence: Key
  • Aura: Key
  • Will: Key
  • Morality: Diabolical to Exemplary
  • Aura is the character connection to the supernatural.


Like Medical this these are mental disorder the character can have.

Like Medical I recommend using the optional rule that rewards the player with attributes points if they opt to make rolls on this table. This has other optional rules to pick from as well. Again there is a 30% change of no disorders, and 5% chance of multiple disorders.


A short list and explanation of the Harnic Deities and their suggested Morality ranges.

Also explains Piety Points which rolled using 5d6. Piety points measure a character standing with their deity. All players can use them to pray for divine intervention, and they are important to priests if using Harn Religion.


This section serves two purposes, for character generation and for making NPCs. It list a set of different occupations and the skills associated with them. It comprehensive for a medieval setting and also includes monthly and yearly wage information.

For character generation the point of the section is generate the character's parent occupation. Then the player can roll (or pick) the occupation they apprentice in. Listed for the occupation is the number of years of service before the character gets all the skill listed for that occupation. For example a Hunter/Trapper requires 5 years. Character start training at age 14. The parent roll also determine if the character was born into an urban environment.

Assignment of Skills

Starting Harn Character get skills from the following.

  • Automatic Skills: Everybody has these
  • Occupational Skills: The skill listed under the occupation that the character trained for.
  • Family Skills: The character gets to add the first skill in the parent's occupation and one other skill in their occupation list. They don't start as high as the occupation skills
  • Optional Skills: The player gets 5 picks, they can be put all one new skill or spread among 5 new skills.
  • Psionic Talent: As an option the character can be born with a psionic talent. The referee is also has the option of rolling secret latent talents for the player.
I will get into how skill works in the next post.

Equipment and Funds

Next we get into Equipment and Funds. Basically listing how much wealth the character start out with. Unless the character is a noble it is pretty small. A lot of Harn characters in my campaigns started with little more than a clothes, a leather vest, spear, dagger, and a helmet.

Friends and Enemies

This section is about generating contacts among families and allies. As well as how to call on them for favors. This is often vital for characters trying to get themselves established and looking for adventure.


This section explains how to continue character generation to produce an experienced character. Basically each year after the character finishes training give option points which can be used to improve or add skills.


This section explains about aging if the campaigns progresses along far enough.

Character Design

This section explains the point based method of character creation. All Key attributes are set to 8 and you spend 30 character point to make them whatever you want.

As an option you can add 20 more cp and include the other elements of character generation.


This contains the rules for creating clerics of various Harnic Religions. However keep in mind the rules for divine magic is found in Harn Religion. This section also explains Ritual Invocations which are divine abilities usable by the clerics.


This section explains how to create a mage in the service of the Shek Pvar. There are six convocations of magic corresponding to the Harnic elements of Air, Fire, Metal, Earth, Water, Mind. Along with the seventh neutral convocation. Sun sign is a factor in how good a mage is with a convocation. Like clerics you need Harnmaster Magic for the explanation of the magic system.

Military Careers

This covers the various military occupations as well as provide a fair amount detail on military life. It is a great option for adventurers. Where clerics and mages get two pages each, this section get four pages full of military detail and char gen info.

Previous post was Introduction. Next Post is Skills.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Walk through Harnmaster - Introduction

Columbia games is running a kickstarter to reprint the Harnmaster Boxed Set and improve the graphics.  There is a couple of days left and I figure it would be useful to run through the system so you have a better idea of what the system is about.

Harnmaster is divided into loose leaf articles meant to be placed in a 3-ring binder. There were a few exceptions but the whole line was published like this after the mid 80s.

Circa 2010

Circa 2020


This is a 2 page article outlining the system and their philosophy. The basic gist is stated in this sentence
HârnMaster is a fantasy role-playing game in which players assume the identities of characters who explore and experience a fantasy world.

The Gamemaster (GM)

Their view of the role of the gamemaster is summarized below
The Gamemaster (GM) is apart from the players and functions much like a referee at a sports event. Among many other things, the GM controls weather and climate, societies and institutions, and deities and religions.
The GM stands between the fantasy world and the players, describing and explaining it, and operating the denizens that hinder the PCs’ lives. But the GM also operates Non-Player Characters (NPCs) who can befriend and assist PCs and should never, therefore, be viewed as the “enemy.”
The introduction also includes this about the players
The players’ challenge is to explore the fantasy world, meet it on its own terms, and succeed according to the goals they set for themselves.
The sidebar explains the other products in the Harnmaster system.

General Information

This is a short section explaining all the terms, conventions, and abbreviation used in the rules.

Rob's Comments
One of the reason I like Harnmaster and product is that their view of how to run a campaign closely aligns with mine. Most of their products I found highly useful for my Majestic Wilderlands setting because of this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Harnmaster Kickstarter

Columbia Games decided it was time to spruce up their Harnmaster boxed set and order a new printing. You can get on the action on kickstarter.

Harnmaster has long been one of my favorite RPGs. You can read a detailed account of a session in my 911 call from the Attic post.

It a skill based system that uses a d100. It oriented heavily towards the medieval side of fantasy compared to other fantasy RPGs. It combat system is without comparison for how realistic it feels yet remaining playable. The key is a set of well laid out charts that make resolution a snap and bloody.

It also a combat system without hit points. Characters suffer injuries which reduce skills levels as well as a force a saving throw. The saves are where the bad things happen like shock, stumble, fumble, and of course the dreaded kill result.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A house rule for OD&D or Swords & Wizardry

In ODnD or Swords and Wizardry, a fighter gets 1 attack per level when facing a group of opponents with 1 HD or less. Note in ADnD this was changed to 1-1 HD or less.

The origin of this rule is found in The Strategic Review, Volume 1, No 2, Page 3.

It is Gygax's adaptation of the Chainmail rule where one hero type worth four figures and a superhero is worth eight figures.

What if we extended this rule

Multiple Attacks for original edition fighters

Every combat around the fighting man can attack a number of hit dice equal to their level with a minimum of 1 attack allowed. If the creature has a modifier to their hit dice round up to the nearest whole number. For example a hobgoblin has HD 1+1/2 for this rule treat this the same as a HD 2 creature.

This means a 4th level fighter while facing a Goblin Chief HD 1+1/2 and five of his minions (HD 1-1) can opt to attack up to four of the goblin minions. Or opt to attack the Chief two times as HD 1+1/2 is treated as HD 2. Or the chief once, and two of his minions provided they are within reach of the fighter's weapon.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

A report from the Attic, a Bat in the Attic Update

I hope everybody keeping safe and well.

A small bit of good news, Onebookshelf announced that they will be resuming card and poster printing. In this post I stated that I will be sending complimentary print coupon to anybody who buys the map PDFs. This will be an at-cost plus $1 so the use of the coupon will register as a sale. The post has the costs. Any PDF made today or Monday up until they open up print sales for cards/posters will still get the complimentary print coupon. I expect to have them emailed no later than the end of the week so check your inbox on DriveThruRPG.

In other developments work still continues on the Wild North although I slowed down to work other project I have in the hopper. Namely an adventure that I will be calling Night Bride's Coven. An adventure deep within the Forest of Remorse a forested region inhabited by a variety of evil denizens including some evil magic users who banded together as the Night Bride's Coven. I was not sure how long the shutdown of OBS' card/printing facility will be and figured I need to work on something that just a book. A portion of the map is below. The digital version won't be just a PDF but have versions suitable for Virtual Tabletop Software like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds.

Last I submitted my first quarter royalty report to Robert Bledsaw II of Judges Guild. As part of that we came to an agreement on what I was owed for doing the remaining nine maps. Which also determines how long the royalty waiver I was granted will last. See Concerning Bat in the Attic Games.

Currently I am 45% of the way to reaching the agreed upon amount. This is an increase from 37% from January 1st. Because of the Covid-19 situation I estimate I will hit the amount I am owed by the end of the year. I will have a better feel for this after the 2nd quarter report.

After this point per my license agreement I will turn over any files I have not given yet and remove the items from sales from my storefronts.

Again everybody keep safe and healthy.