Character Creation and Skills
Original SA post
HARP: High Adventure Role Playing
High Adventure Role Playing
is a game by Tim Dugger and Heike Kubasch. It was published in 2003 by Ice Crown Enterprises. ICE was the company behind the famously complicated RoleMaster system, and HARP is supposed to be a more streamlined version of that game.
The core dice mechanic of the game
is something called “open-ended percentile rolls”, or a d100 where success is determined by reaching 100 or more.
Basically, you have a set of skills whose value ranges from 0 to 105. You roll percentile dice, add the skill, and then you score a success on a 100 or better.
Further, if you roll within 96-100, you take that result, roll again and add the second roll to the running total, and so on as long as you keep rolling 96-100. While going over 100 is moot for an “all-or-nothing” roll, there are several other types of rolls, particularly with regards to attacks in combat, where going well above 100 counts for something.
This is very samilar to the Basic Roleplaying/Call of Cthulhu/RuneQuest’s percentile dice system: whereas in BRP you might have a skill of 40% and you roll percentile and try to get 40 or less to succeed, here you might have a skill of 40 and you roll percentile, add 40 to the result, and you want to get 100 or more to succeed. Same thing, except bonuses/positive numbers are always good and penalties/negative numbers are always bad.
Part 1: Character Creation
The first step in creating a character is to choose their
, which tells you your Favored Categories, your Key Stats, and your Professional Abilities.
gives you a number of free skill ranks to invest into any skills in that category, and any further purchases of skill ranks in that Category can be made at the cost of 2 points per rank, as opposed to 4 points per rank for unfavored Categories.
just clues you in on which stats you put your highest stats into.
* Professional Abilities are special abilities, called
, that let you perform your character’s chosen role.
The standard fantasy characters are all covered: Clerics, Fighters, Mages, Monks, Rangers, Warrior Mages. Instead of a Bard, they have a Harper (get it?!), and the Rogue and the Thief are two different professions: the Rogue is a generic skill-monkey, while the Thief is specifically a stealer-of-things.
So let’s try making a character, then:
Athan the Fighter
The Favored Category for a Fighter is
with 2 free skill ranks each, and then
with 8 free skill ranks each.
The Key Stats for a Fighter are Strength, Agility, Constitution, and Quickness
The Fighter’s Professional Abilities are the
Talents. Skipping ahead to look for these, we find that Shield Training lets you make full use of a shield, while Lightning Reflexes gives a +5 to initiative rolls.
The next step is to generate and assign Stats, of which there are 8:
Quickness - note that Agility covers manual dexterity, while Quickness covers reflexes, coordination, and and reaction time
Insight - splitting up of Intelligence and Wisdom in these last three stats)
Presence - force of personality, or Charisma without the implications with regards to physical appearance
The random rolling option is to roll 1d100, reroll anything lower than 40, and assign as desired
That gives me the following rolls:
80, 77, 76, 65, 63, 48, 46, 41
Assigning it per the Key Stats recommendations, I get the following:
There are two other options for stat generation:
A point-buy system where a character has 550 points, and then increase stats at a 1:1 basis until a stat hits 91, where it becomes a 2 points:1 stat trade, then a 3:1 trade when the stat hits 96, then finally a 10:1 trade when the stat hits 101
A modified point-buy system where a character has 10d10+500 points. That’s an average of 555 points.
After generating my stats, I cross-reference the stats against a table to get the stat bonus and the number of Development Points I earn from the stats:
Strength: 80 (+6)
Constitution: 76 (+6)
Agility: 77 (+6)
Quickness: 65 (+3)
Self-Discipline: 48 (0)
Reasoning: 46 (0)
Insight: 41 (-2)
Presence: 63 (+3)
The amount of Development Points I gain is equal to the bonus, and I gain twice as many Development Points at level 1 (disregarding negative numbers), so I begin with 48 Development Points.
These Development Points are used to increase stats (using the same point-buy rules I mentioned earlier), or to purchase ranks in skills (with the per-category discounts I mentioned earlier), or to acquire new Talents (such as the Shield Training and Lightning Reflexes that the Fighter starts with).
(One quirk that stands out is that if a character has no stats better than a 51, then they earn 0 Development Points, which means they never get better no matter how much they level up)
Next we have to select a race for the character. Randomly rolling between Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human, I chose a
, which has a penalty to Strength, but a bonus to Constitution, Agility and Quickness. Recalculating my stats, I get:
Strength: 78 (+6)
Constitution: 79 (+6)
Agility: 81 (+7)
Quickness: 69 (+4)
Self-Discipline: 48 (0)
Reasoning: 46 (0)
Insight: 41 (-2)
Presence: 63 (+3)
Development Points: 52
Halflings get a +5 to Base Movement Rate, +10 to Stalking and Acrobatic checks, +35 to Endurance, +25 to Power Points, +15 to Stamina and Will resistance, and are immune to the penalties caused by naturally occurring extremes of cold and heat.
Next, I need to calculate the character’s height, because that modifies the Base Movement Rate. The base height for a Male Halfling is 3’0”. I roll 1d10 and it comes up odd, meaning I subtract the next 1d10 roll. I roll 1d10 again and it comes up 9, meaning I subtract 9 inches off the base height, so Athan the Male Halfling Fighter has a height of 2’3”.
At that height, my Base Movement Rate is 2 feet, with no bonus from my 69 Quickness, and +5 from being a Halfling, so a final Movement Rate of 7 feet per round, where 1 round is 2 seconds.
The next step is to determine my
, which can range from Deep Warrens, Sylvan, Underhill, Rural or Urban. Rolling randomly for this, I get an Urban Culture. This gives me some starting ranks in Appraisal, Armor, Crafts, Endurance, Healing, Jumping, Lore (Local Region), Navigation, Perception, Runes, Stalking & Hiding, Swimming, and one melee and one ranged Weapon Skill.
Part 2: Skills
There are 10 skill categories in HARP:
The Athletics category, for example, covers the Acrobatics and Climbing skills, while Outdoor covers the Animal Handling, Foraging/Survival, Navigation, Riding, Sailing and Tracking skills.
These 10 categories cover the game’s 44 different skills. Each skill has a rank, capped at [level x 3 + 3], then either two different stat bonuses are added or a single stat twice, and then circumstantial bonuses are applied.
Okay, so let’s try that. Athan gets 2 ranks in Swimming from his Urban background. A skill rank of 2 equates to a +10 on the skill roll. Swimming uses Strength and Agility, and so with a +6 Strength modifier and a +7 Agility modifier Athan gets a total of +23 to their skill check. If, for example, Athan wanted to swim across a fast-flowing river (as with most TRPG’s, the game says to only call for rolls where the outcome is uncertain or there is significant stress involved), I’d roll a 1d100 + 23, and would succeed on a 101 or higher. Athan has a 23% chance of pulling that off, although the GM can award circumstantial modifiers in amounts of +/- 20, 40, 60, 80, 100.
At level 1, the skill rank cap is 6. To go from Swimming skill rank 2 to skill rank 6 is 4 ranks, and each rank costs 2 Development Points since Swimming is under the Physical category that is Favored by Fighters, so that would take 8 out of Athan’s 52 Development Points. If he does this, then skill rank 6 equates to a +30 on the skill roll, or a +43 after including Strength and Agility. That’s much better.
That’s the basic pattern for all the skills: Rank converts to a two-digit bonus on the percentile roll, then you get a single-digit bonus from the associated stat. Without going through the full list, there are a couple of special skills that are worth mentioning:
is based on Constitution and Self-Discipline. Athan, with +5 from 1 rank in Endurance from his Urban background, +6 from Constitution, +0 from Self-Discipline, and +35 from being a Halfling, would have a total of 46 Endurance. This actual value represents how much damage Athan can sustain before going unconscious, and then he dies at -79 (the negative of his Constitution value). Since most hits deal about 20 damage on average, that’s not very many hits before Athan is knocked out. More ranks in Endurance will probably be needed.
There are three different Resistance skills, one for Stamina, one for Will and another for Magic.
When a character is about to suffer a detrimental effect that falls under any of these, they make a percentile roll, adding the bonus from their Resistance skill, and then their attacker must make a roll to beat the character’s result.
Spell-casting is a skill. Every spell in the game is considered its own skill, and every character can learn how to cast spells simply by learning the skill.
Athan could, at a somewhat hefty cost of 8 Development Points, learn 2 ranks of Arcane Bolt, learn 1 rank of Power Points Development and start shooting bolts of blazing magical enemy at fools.
Power Points Development
, on the other hand, is the skill that controls how many Power Points a character has, which is a generic term for what powers spells in the game. Athan might spend 4 Development Points to gain 1 rank in PP Development, which gives him a +5, and then he gets a +25 just for being a Halfling, for a total of 30 Power Points. The most basic Arcane Bolt is 2 PP to cast, so he could shoot 15 of the things before running out, although there are more rules later on about increased PP costs based on armor and modifying a spell’s effect. PP is recovered at the rate of 25% of max for every 2 hours of “sleep, meditation, or just lying still for a time”
are just skills broken up into broad categories like axes, long blades, clubs, bows, crossbows, and so on, and then Martial Arts Strikes is its own skill.
The game has a small sidebar to tell you that you should definitely sink points into:
At least 1 rank into each of the three Resistance skills
At least one melee and one ranged weapon skill
Power Point Development, and the spells you like, if you’re a spellcaster
Healing - combined with Herbcraft, this’ll allow you to heal injuries and stanch wounds
Stalk & Hide
Armor - this allows you to negate Agility and Quickness-related penalties with wearing heavy armor
Attunement - this allows you to activate magical items
What I’m liking here so far is that as long as the character is willing to spend the points, magic is freely accessible, and magic itself is based on a points system.
I try to further flesh out the sample character’s skills, and we’ll look at Talents
Training Packages, Talents, Items and Equipment
Original SA post
HARP: High Adventure Role Playing
Part 3: Training Packages
Before we purchase straight skill ranks with our Development Points, there’s a feature in the game called Training Packages. These are a themed set of skill ranks that you can purchase at a discount.
For example, the Astothian Archer package gives you 2 ranks each in Crafting (Bowyer), Crafting (Fletcher), Mundane Lore: Astothian History, Stalking & Hiding and 4 ranks in Weapon Group: Bows.
You total all of the skill ranks together, get their total Development Point cost, which can vary based on your character’s Profession and the corresponding Favored Category discount, then apply a 25% discount to the cost.
Athan only needs 2 DP per rank for the Crafting, Lore and Weapon Group increases, then 4 DP per rank for the Stalking & Hiding, so that’s 28 DP total for all the skills in the package. Applying the 25% discount for getting the package would then reduce the cost to 21 DP total.
The game does give out guidelines for how to use and create your own Training Packages:
* No more than 1 Training Package to be learned per level
* Any ranks in excess of the level cap will be wasted
* The Training Package’s cost must be paid out in full in one go
* A Package should not have more than 20 skill ranks
* A Package should not have less than 2 ranks per skill
* A Package should not have more than 5 ranks per skill
* The skills in the package should all the related to some central theme
The book includes sample packages like a Martial Arts-theme, the Archer theme that I mentioned, one with scouting/survival skills, another for tracking and sneaking, one with sailor-related skills, a Con Man package full of social skills, and one for a “Sage” type character with half spell-related skills and the other half for lore.
It’s not really as fleshed out as it could be, because the examples all miss the critical skills that were mentioned in the skill selection hints. I figure a more relevant Package would be something like “Footman Training” where you have 3 ranks each in Endurance, Weapon Group: Swords, Armor and the three Resistance skills. Or even handle it off-the-cuff: if the player buys at least 2 but not more than 5 ranks in one go, and they can link them all together in a theme, just consider it a new package right then and there and award them the discount.
Part 4: Talents
Talents are feats. Let’s not beat around the bush.
They are exceptional/supernatural/bonus abilities that are purchased for a flat amount of DP ranging from 10 to 30.
You have things like Ambidexterity which eliminates the off-hand weapon penalty when dual-wielding, Dark Vision to let you see in the dark, Quiet Stride for a +25 bonus to Stalking checks, Bane to let you deal additional damage to specific creature types, and the aforementioned initiative bonus from Lightning Reflexes.
More interesting talents are Dense Musculature that adds +5 to attack rolls and defense at the cost of increased weight and a Swimming penalty, Giantism for 50% more height and weight and a +5 increase to Strength bonus (not even the Strength value) or Reduced Sleep Requirement to make 4 hours sleep the equivalent of 8 hours.
“Multi-classing” also rears its head in the Talents section:
for 20 DP, the character can purchase the Additional Profession talent, which makes them lose their current Favored Categories and instead gain the Favored Categories of a different Profession. As well, they gain just one of the new Professional Abilities/Talents of the new Profession - a Mage that decides to become a Fighter can select either Lightning Reflexes or Shield Training, but not both. This seems to be something similar to old D&D’s “dual-classing” where from this moment on you start gaining benefits as if you were that new class, except here in HARP you don’t need to “re-earn” your old class.
Perhaps one bright spot in this whole deal is that as far as I can tell, while some of these are situationally very useful, none of them are really numerically weighty enough to be critical for combat.
are a feature of the game also mentioned in this section. Every character starts with 3 Fate Points. They can purchase more Fate Points at 5 DP per point, or the GM can award them more as a reward for “good roleplaying/good gameplay”.
A Fate Point can be spent to add +50 to any one roll, which is of course a 50% better chance of success, or even 2 points can be spent for a +100 and a guarantee of at least basic success. They can also be spent to add 50/100 to a character’s defense, or to reduce an incoming attack’s damage roll by 25/50 (more on combat specifics when we get there).
One note about the use of Fate Points though is that they should only be used “in situations where success or failure will have an immediate and important impact on the character”, presumably to prevent it from being used in mundane tasks like crafting.
Part 5: Items and Equipment
Every character starts out with 1d10+10 gold pieces
, and it’s a decimal conversion system, so 1 gp = 10 silver pieces, 10 sp = 10 copper pieces, and 1 platinum piece = 10 gp.
There are extensive tables of everything. And I mean everything. Significantly, the item tables also denote how long it takes to craft/manufacture something, such as a Bastard Sword taking 4 days to create, while Plate Armor takes 4 months,
just so you don’t fall into that old trap of a baseline rate to create something based on its cost that then doesn’t make sense once you expand it out to everything else.
The item tables also cover the possibility of piecemeal armor sets, such as only a plate helm while your bracers are chain mail and your boots are of rigid leather, but how this interacts with combat we’ll get into later.
With an average of 15 gp/150 sp as starting gold, we could probably buy a set of Studded Leather Armor for 25 sp, a Full Shield for 7 sp, a Long Sword for 18 sp, a Short Bow for 6 sp and some arrows, and then a pack of 20 arrows for 4 cp and still have 92 sp left for various adventuring accoutrements.
And finally there are the encumbrance tables: 0 to 30 lbs is unencumbered, 31 to lbs is Light, 61 to 90 lbs is Medium, and 91 to 120 lbs is Heavy. Light encumbrance limits you to a “Fast Sprint” and gives you a -10 penalty to all checks related to Agility and Quickness, and higher encumbrances limit the pace further and increases the penalty by another -10. Your strength modifier directly affects the encumbrance brackets, so Athan with his +6 Strength would be Lightly encumbered at 37 to 66 lbs.
For perspective, the armor, shield, long sword, short bow and arrows all add up to a total weight of 60 lbs.
Next: Basic non-combat / adventuring tasks
Basic Task Resolution, Other Adventuring Rules
Original SA post
HARP: High Adventure Role Playing
Part 6: Basic Task Resolution
“Any time a PC takes an action that involves a risk, requires concentration, or grace under pressure, it is considered a maneuver and thus requires a Maneuver Roll”
A Maneuver Roll is this game’s term for a skill check/ability check, or any other basic building block for performing a task.
There’s the standard note that dice rolls should only be called for if the task being attempted is dramatic and/or has something valuable at stake.
There are two kinds of Maneuver Rolls: All-or-nothing or percentage rolls.
is just that - the player rolls 1d100, adds their skill bonus, adds their stat bonus, and wants to get a 101 or better to succeed.
A percentage roll is when the margin of the success or failure can be variable
: if the player gets a result of 101-110 when haggling with a merchant, the Maneuver Table describes a +5 bonus, so the GM might say that the player gets a 5% discount. If they get a result of 151-170, the bonus is +30. Similarly, anything below 101 starts imposing a penalty, such as a result of 51-60 resulting in a -25 penalty.
This also applies to rolls where one player might be trying to help another. If Bob wants to, say, use their Trickery skill to try and distract a merchant while Jess uses their Pick Pockets skill to filch the merchant’s coinpurse, the GM might call for Bob to make a percentage roll of their Trickery. Bob gets a 171, which corresponds to a bonus of +40, so when Jess makes their Pick Pockets roll, they can use that +40.
In that example I just made up, Trickery is actually classified as an All-or-nothing skill, but depending on the context, it can also be made to apply as a percentage.
Percentages is also where the “open-ended” feature of their die rolling mechanic comes in: if the die roll is a natural 96 to 100, then the player adds that to a running total and rolls again, and keeps on rolling and racking up the running total as long as they keep rolling 96 to 100s. The Maneuver Table describes roll results of up to 301+ for this.
As I mentioned before, the GM can also apply circumstantial modifiers: +60 for a “routine” task, +40, +20, then a -20 penalty for a “hard” task, -40, -60, -80 for “sheer folly” and -100 for “absurd”
The game also supports using skills “untrained”, which simply imposes a -25 penalty if you attempt a skill that you have 0 ranks in.
Tasks that are unsupported by any skills/raw ability checks can be rolled for by using twice the stat bonus of the stat being tested. So if our example character, Athan, with his 79(+6) Strength, wanted to push a boulder out of the way, the roll would be 1d100+12. It seems like this would be quite difficult though without circumstantial bonuses as a large proportion of the climb to 100 is done via the skill bonuses.
There are also a couple of “GM’s Option” sidebars here:
* Round off any numbers to the nearest 5 to make the math easier
* If a roll just misses succeeding by 10 or less, like a 98, the GM can allow a second roll with a +20 bonus with a small expenditure of additional time/round
* If the roll is a natural 66, the result should be special/exceptional/unusual
Opposed rolls and basic spellcasting
The classic opposed roll is the someone sneaking and someone trying to detect them. In this game, it’s a 2-step look-up on the Maneuver Table:
1. The sneaker makes a Stalking & Hiding roll, and it produces a corresponding Resistance Roll to beat. A result of 31-40 will give an RR of 75, a result of 81-90 will give an RR of 100, and a result of 151-170 will give an RR of 160.
2. The victim could then make a Perception roll, and they need to beat the RR number to detect the sneaker.
Spellcasting works the same way:
the caster makes a roll using the corresponding skill of their spell, that produces an RR number that the target must beat with a roll from their Resistance skill.
As an example, Arcane Bolt is a spell that deals 1d10 damage to a target if they fail their Magic Resistance roll. If Athan had 4 ranks in that and tried to cast it, he’d roll a 1d100+20 (Athan’s Self Discipline and Reasoning have a +0 bonus, so it’s just +20 from 4 ranks). He gets a 26, which on the Maneuver Table corresponds to an RR of 70. His target then makes a 1d100 + Magic Resistance skill roll and needs to get a 70 or better. If they don’t, they get hit for 1d10 damage.
This is why the skill section recommends at least 1 rank in all the Resistance skills, because otherwise you get hit with a -25 penalty in trying to resist anything.
It’s a bit more complicated than the basic resolution, but if I’m not mistaken Chaosium uses a similar kind of “Resistance Table” for comparing the relative skill numbers of any two opposing characters to give you a single target number to roll under, so it’s not unprecedented. The game does tell you to take photocopies of the Maneuver Table’s page so that everyone can do look-ups.
With regards to “utility” spells, or what we might call buffs, you need a minimum spellcasting roll of 71 or better for it to be cast correctly/effectively. However, if you get 151 or better, then you get a “Double” result and you can double either the range, duration or number of affected targets for free. 201 or better and you can double two of these properties. 261 or better than one of these properties can be tripled. So if you were to cast Minor Healing and you got a 265, it would heal 75% of your target’s damage instead of just 25%.
Failure and Fumbles
1. If you’re making an all-or-nothing Maneuver roll and you get a modified result 100 or less, you fail.
2. If you’re making a percentage Maneuver roll and you get a modified result of 10 or less, you fail and impose/receive a hefty penalty
3. If you’re casting a Utility spell and you get a modified result of 70 or less, you fail. The Power Points are expended, but the spell fizzles and nothing happens.
4. If you’re casting any other kind of spell (such as an attack spell) and you get a modified result of 10 or less, you fail. Even an 11 would go off, even though the Resistance Roll would be just a 65.
Now, if you get a natural 0 to 10, then it is a Fumble.
There is a Fumble table where you roll a 1d100 and cross-reference it with the kind of activity/skill category you were attempting. Some examples:
Influence skill fumble - you accidentally make a high pitched noise as you try to begin
Combat skill fumble - you give yourself a minor wound. Take 1d10 hits. Remember, the pointy end faces the enemy!
Mental skill fumble - In the words of a great philosopher, “Doh!” Not only do you not remember anything pertinent, but you actually spout off incorrect information without realizing it!
Spellcasting fumble - Wow! You just invented the x-ray! Unfortunately, you also knock yourself out and take a 1d100 on the Electricity Critical Table from the magical energy feedback.
And this is where the RoleMaster influence really starts to shine - there’s a footnote at the bottom of the Fumble table:
Note: It is important to tailor the fumble to the event. While a fumble is unfortunate, it is not necessarily certain death.
And while I don’t know (yet) if such a similar caution exists in actual RoleMaster, at least they’re cognizant of the whole “an improbable series of die rolls leads to a character dying of a head wound all because they wanted to ride a horse” that the system is infamous for.
Other Adventuring Rules
The section then covers rules on
* Breaking objects
* Throwing grenade-like substances/objects
* Light and vision
* Movement rates across various kinds of terrain
* Blind-fighting and fighting invisible targets (the play example demonstrates the player throwing a bag of flour to partially discern an invisible assassin, the GM awarding a bonus to the player’s Perception roll because of it, then a percentage Perception roll determining the bonus or penalty to the player’s attack)
* Fighting in darkness, fog, rain and other limited-visibility situations - what amounts to a penalty on all attacks and Maneuver rolls: -20 for starlight, -5 for light rain, etc
* Falling damage
* Swimming and drowning
* Starvation and thirst - take an RR 100 Stamina Resistance roll if you’re starving or dehydrated, or take two if both. A failure imposes a cumulative -10 penalty on everything, and you’re dead by -100
* Extreme heat and cold - you start taking damage past 54 degrees Celsius, or below -18 degrees.
There’s also a section on Death and Dying, but I’ll tackle that when we get to the Combat section, which is up next!
Next: Combat rules!
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HARP: High Adventure Role Playing
Part 7: Combat
This chapter begins with a standard disclaimer that because combat can result in permanent death and/or severe injury, the players should not take the decision to fight very lightly, and that if they have to, they should be well-prepared for it. Combat is supposed to be gritty and quite lethal in this system.
A single round in HARP is 2 seconds long, although almost every action is only 1 round long with the exception of reloading ranged weapons. Even all the spells take only 1 round to cast.
Everyone declares their actions, then initiative is rolled for everyone, and the actions are executed in sequence of the initiative. Initiative is affected by a character’s Quickness and Insight bonuses, as well as their weapon type - two-handed weapons are slower, as is using a shield or being heavily encumbered. Initiative is also rolled every round, ostensibly to “reset” the order to account for any changes inflicted on the combatants.
This is essentially the skill roll of a character with their weapon skill: 1d100 + weapon skill bonus + Strength bonus + Agility bonus, plus any other modifiers like a bonus for flanking an opponent or a penalty for being injured.
This is a flat number composed of Quickness bonus x 2 + Armor bonus + Shield bonus, plus any other modifiers like being behind cover, or using a defensive action like Parry.
Basic attack resolution
When a character attacks, they roll their Offensive Bonus, subtract the target’s Defensive Bonus from the result, and then they hit if the result is 1 or greater.
For example, let’s say Athan has 6 ranks in their Weapon Skill: Long Blades for a +30 skill bonus, then +6 from Strength and +7 from Agility. He’s attacking a Kobold, which according to the game’s bestiary has a Defensive Bonus of 60.
He rolls 1d100+30+6+7-60. Let’s say the natural roll is a 21 for a final modified roll of 4. That’s greater than 1, so Athan hits.
The next step is to factor in the weapon’s size. A longsword deals “Medium Slash” damage. A Medium sized weapon has a Critical Modifier of 0, so there’s no change to the final result of 4. It also has a Damage Cap of 100, so no effect there either.
We then go to the “Slash Criticals” table and cross-reference the final result of 4. It says “You nicked his arm. 5 Hits”.
Hits here is the equivalent of your Endurance skill.
The Kobold has 70 Hits, so now the Kobold is down to 65/70 Hits.
Let’s say Athan rolled a natural 80 instead, for a final result of 63. Again, no change due to damage caps or weapon size, so we go straight to the damage look-up. 63 on the Slash Criticals table reads “The idiot used his arm to parry. For takes 18 Hits, is stunned 1 round, and is at -10”
So the Kobold is now down to 47/70 Hits, misses its next round, and has a -10 penalty to everything, including its Defensive Bonus. That means that if Athan rolls another natural 80, the final result is now 73 instead of 63, and the result of 73 gives us “Blow to his elbow. Foe takes 20 Hits, is stunned 1 round, bleeds 1 per round, and is at -15”.
The Kobold would miss its turn again, get reduced to 27/70 Hits, lose 1 Hit per round, and takes another -15 penalty. Which means its Defensive Bonus is even lower the next time Athan tries to attack it.
Injury and Death
Once attacks start reaching the 100+ range, the table lookups start giving you results like
“death comes in 6 rounds”
, which is actual permanent death unless the character gets healed somehow. The other way to die is if you become unconscious at 0 Hits, and then go into negative Hits greater than your Constitution stat. The bleeding status inflicted by attacks will also cause you to lose Hits over time, producing the same result unless the bleeding is stanched.
Natural healing can take a while in this game. Your wounds are either classified as Light, Medium or Severe depending on how many Hits you’ve lost, any bleeding inflicted and/or any specific organ injuries inflicted upon you. A Light injury can take 1-5 days to recover from, Medium injuries can take 3-25 days, and then Severe can range from a week to a month and a half. The percentage or “status” based classification of injuries though avoids that hit point pitfall of a 100 HP Warrior requiring much more bedrest than a 25 HP Wizard in other games.
In this game, armor is simply a flat increase to your Defensive Bonus. This might make it seem D&D-esque as far as plate mail awarding you no “damage reduction”, but if you look at the combat example I wrote,
the final attack result is also used to determine the amount of damage dealt by the attack, so in a way armor still also does act as damage reduction, because even if the final attack result is positive, if it’s only a 10 then you’re only taking a few Hits anyway.
Heavy armors do impose a penalty on Agility and Quickness based skills (mitigated by the Armor skill), while also causing the Power Point cost of spells to increase. Trying to cast a spell while in plate armor adds a whopping 10 Power Points to the base casting cost of any spell.
One possible combat action that the game specifically highlights is the ability of a player to reduce their Offensive Bonus in order to increase their Defensive Bonus by the same amount. The game assumes you’ll be doing this normally as part of your tactical repertoire, and seeing as how combat can quickly cause a “death spiral” where the first meaty hit inflicts enough of a penalty to cause more and more damaging hits to be inflicted in sequence, it seems to make sense.
Each weapon inflicts a damage type, and the game provides a different look-up table for each of those: crush, puncture, slash, martial arts, and then even elemental damage; heat, cold, electrical and impact tables.
It’s my understanding that in RoleMaster, they have look-up tables down to the individual weapon, and that the tables are much much larger/specific/potentially lethal. These ones though are fairly straightforward, moreso that the “roll to hit” and “roll for damage” are in the same roll.
I find the combat fairly easy to understand, and the “wearing down” of an opponent through progressively more damaging hits would seem to prevent the “big bags of HP” problem.
Spellcasting, Sample Combats
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HARP: High Adventure Role Playing
The last thing I’ll cover for this game is spells and spellcasting. There are a couple of key guidelines to the system:
Each spell is learned as a skill
It follows that every character can learn how to cast spells, although if Mystical Arts is not a Favored Category for you, then learning spells will be expensive in terms of Development Points
Characters spend Power Points to cast spells, and the amount of PP you have is itself governed by your ranks in the PP Development skill
Each spell has a base cost, such as Arcane Bolt with a PP cost of 2. The character’s rank in a skill must be equal to the total PP cost of the spellcasting that they’re about to attempt, so you need 2 ranks in Arcane Bolt just to be able to cast it.
One other gimmick of HARP’s spellcasting system is that every spell has a bunch of ways that it can be “upscaled” - spend more PP to increase an effect’s duration, or make it deal more damage, or even make your Light spell so bright that it becomes harmful to the Undead. Again with the rule mentioned above, you have to have as many ranks in a spell as its total PP cost. Even if you have 4 ranks in Projected Light, you cannot upscale it to the “bright as a 10 mile beacon” option until you have 19 ranks in it, since that particular option adds +15 PP to the cost.
Armor also comes into play: instead of “arcane spell failure” like some other games, wearing armor simply increases the base cost of all spells. Leather adds 2 PP to every spell you try to cast, Chain Mail adds 6 PP, and if you want to cast Projected Light with the beacon option while wearing Plate Armor, you need a whopping 29 ranks in it because Plate adds 10 PP to the base cost.
Finally, while all characters can learn how to cast spells, not all characters can cast all spells. Spells are segregated into three groups: a Universal sphere that everyone can draw from, a Cleric sphere that only Clerics can use, and a Mage sphere that only Mages can use.
Universal spells run the gamut, from a basic Arcane Bolt damaging spell, to defensive boosts, buffs to all 8 stats, a counterspell, detect magic, detect traps, featherfall, light, Mage Seal aka Arcane Lock, lesser healing, and Unlocking Ways aka Knock.
Clerics spells represent both classic Clerics and bad Clerics as well as Druids, so they have a mix of positive buffs, healing spells, curatives, necromantic manipulation, and resurrection, while also having animal summoning, plant manipulation, and nature-themed buffs. They have a very generic attack spell: Harm
Mage spells cover all sorts of elemental effects and classic D&D-esque spells: summoning a wall of air or fire or ice, creating a globe of darkness, polymorphing a target, stone-to-mud, flight, invisibility, mage armor, teleportation, sleep, Rune Mastery aka Arcane Mark, and even a couple of illusion-based spells. A fairly cool difference is that instead of a Firebolt and a Fireball, they have Elemental Bolt and Elemental Ball, and whether it’s composed of Fire, Water, Earth or Air is a separate spell/skill to be learned.
And that's pretty much it for my read-through. I think the best thing that could be said about it is that it helped wrap about the basic mechanics of RoleMaster, so that when I went back to reading
I could understand what it was trying to say.
Taking a page from System Mastery, I did attempt to create a character for the system, and this is what I ended up with:
One thing I will say though is that the addition of all these "roleplaying/social/non-combat" skills really inflated the skill list by a lot. There's about 50 skills in there, compared to about half for later versions of RoleMaster, but that's because RM focuses mainly on combat skills or skills related to dungeoneering.
And while I was considering doing a read-through of RM next, apparently someone already did that before. So instead, as bonus content, I dug through the conversion rules from older versions of Arms Law and ran some simple sample combats:
A level 1 Fighter against the Monster Manual's zombie:
* 22 concussion hits. The conversion is 10 base hits + 3 hits per 1 D&D hit point
* 45 Offensive Bonus. The conversion is 5 OB per character level + 20 OB for being a Fighter + 20 OB from Weapon Proficiency (the Fighter only has 13 STR so no bonus from that)
* Weapon Type: Broadsword (or in D&D, a Bastard Sword being wielded one-handed)
* 65 Defensive Bonus. The conversion is 10 DB from a -2 AC DEX bonus + 35 DB from a -7 AC Splint Mail + 20 DB from a small shield
* Armor Type 13, described in Arms Law as "A chain mail shirt covering the torso to midthigh and half of the upper arms."
* 40 concussion hits. The conversion is 10 base hits + 15 hits per 1 D&D hit dice
* 26 Offensive Bonus. The conversion is 10 base OB + 8 OB per 1 D&D hit dice
* Weapon Type: Bite (because zombies bite, right?)
* 20 Defensive Bonus. The conversion is a straight table that tells you the target DB and Armor Type for every equivalent D&D AC number
* Armor Type 3, from the same table
The way the game works is that you roll 1d100, add your OB, and then subtract the target's DB. You then go to the look-up table for your weapon type (and there is a table for **every** possible weapon) and cross-reference the result. It's like rolling for your to-hit and your damage at the same time, since whatever "leftover" to-hit you have after subtracting the target's DB determines how high you check in the look-up table, and higher results correspond to more damage.
Generally, a final result of 100 or more will let you deal critical strikes, which is on yet another table and can cause effects like making the target bleed out, or be stunned, or suffer a straight penalty to all their rolls, or even kill them instantly.
If you roll a natural 96-100, you add the result to a running total and roll again. And again if the result is again a 96-100 (basically a percentile roll that "explodes" 5% of the time). At the same time, if you roll a natural 1-5 (or to be a nitpick, the precise range depends on the weapon), then you fumble and roll on a fumble table to find out how badly you screwed up.
So with the two combatants statted up, I played out a combat between the two of them:
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+45-20, and gets a result of 87. The attack has a result of 8, so the zombie takes 8 hits, reducing it to 32
The zombie attacks, rolling 1d100+26-65 and gets a natural roll of 98, so the attack is rolled again. The final result is 85. The attack has a result of 9AT, so The Fighter loses 9 hits to bring him down to 13. Rolling on the Animal Critical Strike Table for an "A" type crit, the roll is a 74: "Lower leg strike. If foe has leg armor, +1 hit. If not, foe takes 4 hits and +2 hits per round". The Fighter's AT13 armor is a Chain Shirt as a close approximation of AD&D's Splint Mail, so let's say he does not have leg armor and takes the worse result. He takes another 4 hits to bring him down to 9 and then will take another 2 hits per round.
Round 2. The Fighter is down to 7 hits.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+45-20, and gets a natural 3. Rolling on the Fumble table for a one-handed weapon, the roll is a 34: "You slip with grace and lose the opportunity to get in the vital blow." No further action taken this turn.
The zombie attacks, rolling 1d100+26-65, and gets a result of -32. The attack has no effect.
Round 3. The Fighter is down to 5 hits.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+45-20, and gets a result of 100. The attack has a result of 11BP, so the zombie loses 11 hits, reducing it to 21. Rolling on the Puncture Critical Strike Table for a "B" type crit, the roll is a 96: "Strike through foe's cheek. Foe drops and dies after 9 rounds of incapacity. Add +20 to your next attack."
The zombie is down and takes no action.
Round 4. The Fighter is down to 3 hits.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+45-20+30+20 (+30 from attacking a downed for, +20 from the previous attack's special effect), and gets a result of 87. The attack has a result of 8, so the zombie takes another 8 hits, reducing it to 13.
The zombie is down and takes no action.
Round 5. The Fighter is down to 1 hit.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+45-20+30, and gets a result of 69. The attack has no effect.
By round 6, The Fighter would have fallen unconscious and would eventually bleed to death without any help (death comes at negative maximum hits), although the zombie itself would have died first.
Technically the fight was over by round 3 since the Fighter could have stepped away and bandaged themselves since the zombie was down and would expire in 9 rounds guaranteed anyway.
And then, since there were conversion rules for the d20 system, I wondered how it would stand up to converting 5th Edition:
Human Fighter 1: DB 30, AT 13, Hits 34, OB 38, Broadsword
Kobold: DB 12, AT 3, Hits 20, OB 32, Dagger
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 61. The attack has no effect.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100+32-30, and gets a 26. The attack has no effect.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 72. The attack has no effect.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100+32-30, and gets a 86. The Fighter takes 2 hits and is down to 32
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 45. The attack has no effect.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100+32-30, and gets a 7. The attack has no effect.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 38. The attack has no effect.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100+32-30, and gets an 88. The Fighter takes 2 hits and is down to 30
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 50. The attack has no effect.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100+32-30, and gets a 90. The Fighter takes 2 hits and is down to 28
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12, and gets a 113. That's a result of 15B. The Kobold takes 15 hits and is down to 5. The Fighter rolls on the Slash Critical Strike Table for a "B" type crit, and gets a 23. The Kobold takes a nasty blow under its ribcage. It loses another 2 hits and is down to 3. It is forced to parry for 1 round and takes a -20 penalty to all rolls.
The Kobold attacks, rolling 1d100-30-20 (parrying transferred all of the OB to DB) and gets a -46. The attack has no effect.
The Fighter attacks, rolling 1d100+38-12 (DB 12 was zeroed out due to penalty. OB 32 was reduced to 12 due to penalty, then used for parrying), and gets a 114. That's a result of 15B. The Kobold takes 15 and is knocked out at -12. The Fighter rolls on the Slash Critical Strike Table for a "B" type crit, and gets a 28. Another blow under the ribcage. It loses another 2 hits and is down to -14. It takes a further -20 penalty to all rolls.
The Kobold is unconscious and is finished off by the Fighter at his leisure.