by Michael Cule
When you referee a long-running campaign, it's an enormous advantage to be able to improvise adventures and to have easy access to great amounts of detail about the campaign world. Only with that sort of detail can you allow the players to run free and take any path to adventure they please. That leaves you with two choices: either you design your own world or you buy one of the commercially available packages. Now, I have tried my hand at world design (and my magnum opus is going to be ready "real soon now"! Well, one of these years.) But I keep turning back to one of the best and most detailed worlds I know: Columbia Games' Hârn.
Hârn, for those who haven't yet seen it, is a large island, roughly based on the medieval British Isles, set on a world called Kethira. The emphasis is on historical accuracy and detail. The complete Encyclopedia Hârnica provides outlines of politics, economics, mythology and technology of the various cultures of Hârn. There's everything a referee could want to actually run a game: personality profiles and pictures of major NPCs, maps of towns and castles (beautiful in their detail and one of the major selling points of Hârn), encounter tables and even a weather generator.
There are some 30 Hârn products currently available, from complete continental maps to wide-ranging adventures and descriptions of large regions to detailed small-scale maps of specific castles. All are extensively illustrated, with maps of great detail (by permission of Columbia Games, some typical examples are reprinted with this article) and interesting to read.
So, if I like Hârn so much, why aren't I using Hârnmaster, their dedicated system? Well, I prefer either a designed character system or a very simple random character system. Hârnmaster seems a little too complicated for me (there's even a roll for the character's astrological sign). And I'm used to GURPS and so are my players. And I like to run adventures that skip across worlds and mix genres; GURPS is ideal for that (and so is Hârn: the place is littered with abandoned inter-world gates). I just prefer the GURPS system.
But that said, you have to make compromises whenever you adapt an existing world to a new game system. Hârn was designed to be "systemless" but nonetheless I've had to make alterations to "standard" GURPS to preserve as much as I can of the world background. I've had a lot of fun adapting GURPS to run a Hârnic campaign. This article will outline the rules I've used and some of the reasons for them. I hope they'll encourage others to try adventuring on Hârn.
Kethira is an Earth-like world. Hârn itself and most of the continent of Lythia is at Tech Level 3 (Feudal) and an early TL3 at that. It's more like early Norman Britain than the High Fantasy period. Chainmail is commoner than plate, even for rich nobles. The barbarian tribes are of even lower tech level (see below).
I've used the standard GURPS Fantasy starting character point and wealth levels: 100 points and $1,000. All the psionic powers are known on Hârn except Teleportation. I limit starting characters to Status 3 (unlanded Knight) or less. Characters may be from any of the nations of Hârn or Lythia, although it usually makes more sense for their point of origin to be local to wherever on Hârn the campaign is currently taking place. As an alternative, the referee may prefer to import characters from other universes. My own current campaign started with a group of "naive" players emerging from Gazer's Pool (one of the abovementioned inter-world gates) at Elkall-Anuz.
Most of the creatures of Hârn can be modeled on those already found in the GURPS Bestiary and Fantasy Bestiary. Since Hârn is the home of the monster-making god Ilvir, there are a huge number of unique and rare creatures on the island and every excuse for introducing more.
Characters with Area Knowledge (Hârn) of 14+ will start with a copy of the Hârn impressionistic map. Civilized characters with Area Knowledge (Own Kingdom) of 13+ will start with a copy of the impressionistic map of their own kingdom.
Hârn is very detailed and realistic in economic terms. There are price lists for everything based on medieval English costs. This ties in well with GURPS costs at the base levels (although there is an immense divergence at the higher levels) if you assume that the $ can be translated into Hârnic pennies at a rate of approximately $1 per farthing or $4 per penny. I use the GURPS price list for weapons and other basics and the Hârnic price lists for more unusual materials. I assumed that Hârn is simply at a lower economic level than "High Fantasy" societies.
But the immensely generous GURPS Fantasy Jobs and Upkeep tables don't reflect Hârnic economics very well. I've used the following:
|+7||King, Pontiff||$20,000 (5,000 d)|
|+6||Prince, archbishop, Thardic Senator||$10,000 (2,500 d)|
|+5||Earl, bishop, magistrate or marshal||$4,000 (1,000 d)|
|+4||Baron, major clan head||$2,000 (500 d)|
|+3||Minor lord, landed knight||$1,000 (250 d)|
|+2||Unlanded knight, mayor, great merchant||$600 (150 d)|
|+1||Squire, captain, merchant||$300 (75 d)|
|-1||Bondsman or servant||$100|
|-2||Outsider, underworld, urban poor||$50|
|-4||Serf or slave||$50|
This includes personal housing, food, clothing and (as appropriate) medical care, taxation and so on for someone living in one place and not gadding around. It does not include travel expenses, the upkeep of dependents or (especially) horses. A warhorse or destrier costs $350 a month upkeep. A cavalry horse costs $300 a month. A riding horse costs $200 a month. Ponies and mules are around $150 a month.
Jobs marked with a # are normally guilded. Not belonging to a guild will increase the income received by 10%. However, any failure of a job roll will bring you to the attention of the appropriate guild which will then take steps. (In the case of the Lia-Kiavar (Hârn's Thieves' Guild), possibly fatal ones!) A job can be both freelance and guilded. The income given below for Master Guildsmen is for Bonded Master. Freemasters are freelance occupations but otherwise identical. Journeymen may be either freelance or working for a master.
|Job (prerequisites)||Monthly Income||Success Roll||Critical Failure|
|Generic Servant (No attribute below 7)||$150||IQ||LJ/LJ, whipped 2d|
|Thief*# (At least 4 Thief skills at 13+ or two at 16+)||PR × $15||Best PR||3d, arrested/6d, jailed|
|Prostitute (Sex Appeal, Streetwise 13+ & at least Average Appearance)||[$??]||PR||3d/catch pox|
|Apprentice: Craft Guild# (Basic Skills)||Room & board + $20||IQ||whipped 3d/lose position|
|Apprentice: Professional Guild# (Literacy plus basic skills)||Room & board + $40||IQ||whipped 2d/lose position|
|Laborer (ST 11+)||ST × $15||ST||2d, LJ/2d, LJ, -1i|
|Bravo*: Lower class bodyguard, thug, fighter. (ST 13 + and/or weapon skill at 14+)||$200||PR-1||LJ, 3d/LJ, 6d|
|Journeyman entertainer*# (Bard/Acting/Musical instrument, etc. at 14+)||Best skill × $15||PR-2||leave town/2d, tomatoes|
|Journeyman crafter# (Craft skill 14+) (May be partly paid in keep)||Skill × $20||PR-2||-2i/2d, -2i, LJ|
|Porter* (ST 12+)||ST × 20||ST||1d LJ/2d LJ|
|Tenant Farmer* (Agronomy 12+, ST 10+)||$250||PR||-1i/2i LJ|
|Mendicant Priest* (Clerical Investment)||$100||IQ||-1i/-2i|
|Journeyman Professional# (Professional Skill 14+)||Skill × $25||PR||-1i/-2i, LJ|
|Man at Arms/Mercenary* (3 combat skills 14+, any Survival 14+)||$300||Best PR||3d/4d, C|
|Town Guard (3 combat skills, Law, Streetwise 14+)||$350||Best PR||2d/41, C|
|Master Crafter# (Craft Skill 16+)||Skill × $50||PR||-1i/2d, -2i|
|Master Entertainer#* (2 Performance skills 15+)||[$??]||PR||LJ/2d, LJ|
|Courtesan# (Above Average Appearance, Sex Appeal, Savoir-Faire, Psychology 14+)||Skill total × $25||PR||-2i/LJ, -2i|
|Bureaucrat/Town Official (Literacy, IQ 12+)||$300||PR||LJ/LJ, arrested|
|Traveling Master Mercantyler* # (Merchant 14+, Diplomacy 12+ $l,000+ capital)||0.5% capital × skill||PR-1||-1i/bankrupt|
|Priest (Clerical Investment, Theology) (or Merchant for Halea)||$100/circle||Theology||LJ/declared heretic!|
|Administrator (Literacy, Administration 14+, Politics 12+)||Skill × $100||PR||LJ/-1i, LJ|
|Master Professional*# (Professional Skill 14+)||Skill × $100||PR||-2i/-4i|
|Guildmaster (Skill 20+, Administration 14+, Politics 12+)||PR × $150||PR||-2i/LJ|
|Master Mercantyler*# (Merchant 16+, Capital $10,000+)||1% of capital × skill||PR||-2i/-4i|
|Military Officer (Weapons skills totaling 60+, Strategy 14+)||Rank × $200||Best PR||-2i, 3d/-3i, 5d, LJ|
|Squire (Savoir-Faire 13+, 3 weapons 12+, Status 1)||$500||Best wpn-1||2d/C, 3d, lose horse, weapons|
|Bishop/High Priest (Circle 5, Theology, Diplomacy 13+)||$5,000||PR||-1i/LJ, declared heretic|
|Archbishop/Pontiff (Circle 6-7, Theology, Diplomacy, Administration 15+)||Lavish upkeep and|
|Household Knight (as Military Officer + Savoir-Faire 14+, Riding 14+, Lance 12+, Status 2+, Duty)||$2,500||Best wpn||2d/3d, C, lose horse, weapons, armor|
|Landed Nobles: Receive the money from their holdings at a rate of 1d ($4) per acre – but this varies according to the land quality and weather conditions. For a success roll, use the Administration or Agronomy skill of the noble or his bailiff.|
|Court Officials: These are given specific incomes in Hârn supplements, and will also have income from land as well in most cases.|
This is an advantage in the medieval world of Hârn. A literate character is assumed to be able to read the script his language is normally written in, Lakise being the standard for most Hârnic humans other than the Orbalese. Other scripts can either be learned as separate Mental/Easy skills or be acquired in the course of learning the languages which normally use them.
Appropriate Patrons for Hârn include:
The standard medieval status list is used (see p. B 131) for all the "civilized" nations, with the following exceptions:
The Thardic Republic: The highest rank is 6 (Senator) with the Provincial Marshals and Magistrates being rank 5. Below that, follow the standard table.
Orbaal: The King is not as highly respected and his power is not so great as in the more "civilized" countries. The King has Status 6, with his immediate family and the "Prince" of Leriel holding Status 5. The lesser lords have Status 4 and below.
The Clergy: The religious organizations have their own system of rank, described below. It is not necessary to buy status separately when advancing in religious rank.
Strangers: Foreigners from off the island may find their social rank discounted on Hârn, the more so the further away they come from. However, the social rank of people from Ivinia will always be respected by the Ivinian population in Orball.
Below are listed the "barbarian" tribes of Hârn. Characters from these tribes all suffer the "Social Stigma: Outsider/Barbarian" disadvantage and the Primitive Disadvantage appropriate to the tribe's TL. In most cases, the tribes also have disadvantages that are "normal" to them.
Adaenum: Tech Level 1. Common disadvantages: Xenophobia, Intolerance of "witches."
Anoa: Tech Level 1. Shamans are low-level priests of Ilvir.
Bujoc: Tech Level 2. Required Disadvantage: Vow (Total Pacifism). Reputation +1 as "mostly harmless." Note: Leaders are female shamans. No male has status above 1.
Chelni: Tech Level 2. Reputation + 2 as the most fearsome horsemen on Hârn. All males have Riding skill at least DX +1. Magic and Herbalism are reserved for females.
Chymak: Tech Level 1. Recommended disadvantages: Compulsive Behavior (Highly Superstitious), Major Delusion that Elves are evil demons. Fishing and Boating skills are common. Shamans are always female.
Equani: Tech Level 1. Reputation: -3 as war-mad murderers. Males are Hideous due to ritual scarification; this is considered Attractive by other Equani, who will not see a male as good-looking unless he has the scars.
Gozyda: Tech Level 1. The Gozyda are composed of three related sub-tribes:
Gozyda shamans keep familiar spirits that they can send out to attack their enemies. Some form of psi power, perhaps?
Hodiri: Tech Level 2. Reputation + 1 as the second most famous horsemen on Hârn. Odious Personal Habit,-2 reaction (remarkably bad table manners). Minor Delusion: "Wizards are all tricksters, and priests aren't much better."
Kamaki: Tech Level 1. Mostly fishermen. Recently there has been an increase in the worship of Peoni and practice of agriculture.
Kath: Tech Level 1. The women are attractive and ranked equal with the men. The shamans are skilled at shapeshifting.
Kubora: Tech Level 2. Reputation -3, as merciless, ferocious, warmongers. Males are Hideous due to facial scarring. All males have Combat Reflexes. The Kubora allow women no place outside the home.
Pagaelin: Tech Level 2. Reputation -3 as dishonorable, treacherous swine. Cowardice, Bullying, Sadism and Megalomania are commonplace. Drug addiction is fostered by the Church of Naveh.
Solori: Tech Level 0. The Solori Code of Honor is worth -15 points and is required of all members: Never forget an insult. Never break a promise. Never wear armor.
Taelda: Tech Level 2. Decent, peaceful and enlightened. They have a written language and skill in healing.
Tulwyn: Tech Level 2. Berserkers are common. All Tulwyn warriors have a -10 point Code of Honor: Always keep your given word; death is the only excuse for failure. Be loyal to chief and overchief. Be truthful.
Urdu: Tech Level 1. Reputation -2 as ferocious warriors. Males are Ugly due to facial scarring.
Ymodi: Tech Level 1. Reputation -2 as ferocious, treacherous warriors. Common disadvantages are Truthfulness and Xenophobia.
The descriptions below are brief and concerned only with game mechanics. Those interested in playing any nonhuman race in Hârn should read the description in the Hârndex and try to capture the unique psychology of the species. The Ilme will not do as player characters in a 100-point basic campaign. And any Gargûn PCs are likely to be killed very quickly. (Unless the whole campaign is set in a tribe of Gargûn. Hmmmm . . . )
The Hârnic Sindarin are very similar to the standard GURPS Elf with one or two minor differences:
IQ +1, DX +1, ST -1. Attractive Appearance, Combat Reflexes, Magery 1, Unaging, Regular Regeneration, ESP 3 with Psychometry at IQ-2. Code of Honor (Live elegant, harmonious lives), Sense of Duty (to nature), Dying Race.
It costs 60 points to be a Hârnic Elf.
The standard GURPS Dwarf can be used to portray Hârnic Khuzdul very well. See p. 40 of Fantasy Folk.
All Gargûn have the following characteristics: Night Vision, Early Maturing 1, Racial Memory, Reputation (Everybody, all the time, -5 as murderous monsters), Short Lifespan 3, Primitive (TL2), and the racially learned skills Savoir-Faire (Gargûn) at IQ +1, Survival (Own Area) at IQ, Brawling at DX. Paranoia, Sadism, Megalomania and other such traits are not compulsory but are common and culturally acceptable to the Gargûn.
The Gargûn subspecies have the following attributes:
The Ilme, or mere-dragon, is illustrated below.
ST +2. Enhanced ST 2 (Females 3) Amphibious. PD 2, DR 5.
Males: Cowardice, Laziness.
Females: Bad Temper, Sense of Duty (Offspring)
It costs 175 points to play a male Ilme and 225 to play a female.
The standard GURPS Centaur can be used (p. 36 of Fantasy Folk) with the added advantage of four levels of Extended Lifespan. At 85 points this makes them more likely to be NPCs than player characters.
The gods of Hârn have real power (at least in my version) but rather than use the standard Clerical Investment advantage the following gives a better match to Hârnic reality:
This advantages costs 5 per Circle. The character has a position in the hierarchy of the Temples. Each god has a separate set of oaths and other requirements. Clerics must also take a Duty (to the temple) of at least 5 points, although most clerics' duty is not dangerous. For every two Circles (rounded up) a cleric receives a +1 reaction bonus from members of his own and friendly religions. For every Circle, a cleric may learn an additional Word of Clerical "Magic" (see below).
After trying a number of different systems for Hârnic magic, I settled on a variant of the Improvised Magic System. A Cleric can learn one Word (See GURPS Magic, p. 76 on) for each Circle and must learn them in the order given. His skill with each Word can never be higher than his Theology skill. Magery is not needed to learn a Word in this way and there is no effect on Clerical Magic from Mana Levels. However, Clerical Magic is at +3 skill in a temple of the Deity being invoked and at -3 in the temple of a hostile deity. Further, the power of the dark gods Naveh and Morgath is greater in the dark: +2 to Words invoking them after dark.
In ceremonial circles a Cleric can only add unlimited energy to the ritual if he knows all the Words involved at 15+. Otherwise he can add 3 energy per Word he knows at 12+.
Below are listed the Hârnic religions along with their required skills, typical or required advantages or disadvantages, and the Words the priests can learn in the order they can learn them.
Supports several fighting orders.
Skills: Ace/Mace, Whip, Sickle.
Typical disadvantages: Bloodlust, Sadism.
Words: Know, Create, Pain, Fire, Control, Battle, Summon.
Only beautiful females may become clerics of Halea. Bribery is encouraged in seeking promotion.
Skills: Sex Appeal, Merchant, Musical Instrument or Singing.
Typical disadvantages: Lecherousness, Greed.
Words: Know, Create, Sensation, Body, Control, Fortune, Summon.
Skills: Drawing, Animal Handling and/or Naturalist (specializing in Ivashu).
Typical advantage: Animal Empathy.
Words: Control, Ivashu, Body, Transform, Summon.
There are no Ilvirian priests above Circle 5.
Skills: Any Sword, Axe/Mace, Shield.
Typical disadvantage: Chivalric Code of Honor.
Words: Know, Truth, Battle, Control, Summon.
Skills: Dagger, Interrogation.
Typical disadvantages: Sadism, Paranoia, Secret (at least outside Rethem), Fearsome Reputation.
Words: Know, Control, Death, Create, Shadow, Summon.
Promotion often involves the assassination of one's superior.
Skills: Dagger, all Thief skills.
Typical disadvantages: Fanaticism, Paranoia, Sadism, Megalomania, and so on.
Words: Know, Create, Darkness, Control, Dream, Fear, Summon.
Skills: Agronomy/TL3, Physician/TL3.
Required disadvantages: Vow (Chastity, poverty, total non-violence).
Words: Heal, Protect, Body, Plant, Earth, Summon.
Skills: Axe/Mace, Dagger, Shield.
Typical disadvantages: Ljarl Code of Honor (-10 points), Berserker, Bloodlust.
Words: Know, Honor, Storm, Control, Battle, Create, Summon.
Skills: Science skills, Writing, Performing skills, Bard.
Typical disadvantages: Truthfulness or Compulsive Lying or Compulsive Behavior (Seek Knowledge)
Words: Know, (Mind or Truth or Illusion), Create, Control, Summon.
Skills: Astrology/TL3, Survival (Woodlands), Naturalist.
Words: Know, Dream, Heal, Nature, Summon.
All these new words are Mental/Average except Fortune and Dream (Mental/Hard) and Shadow (Mental/Very Hard).
Battle: This word can modify morale and combat strength when using the Mass Combat system.
Dream: Siem and Naveh control opposite aspects of this Word, Siem being the Lord of Dream and Naveh the Lord of Nightmare. Both cults can perform Oneiromancy (Know Dream).
Fortune: This allows Halea to give both blessings and curses.
Honor: This means the Sarajinian code.
Nature: This includes both plants and animals, but only in an undomesticated state.
Shadow: This is the terrifying aura that surrounds Morgath and his works. It cannot be Controlled, only Summoned, and causes fright checks in all exposed to it, including the summoner!
Hârn has an overall normal mana level with high patches at Evael and parts of Melderyn. It could be argued that a general low mana level might fit better, but it is more consistent with the overall description of the world to treat mana level as normal and simply limit the number of mages in the population. We know that there do exist areas "aspected" to the performing of certain types of magic on Hârn and that the Shek-Pvar can sometimes create them (see Sanctum, below).
The mages of Hârn are organized (at least in the civilized lands) into the six convocations of the Shek-Pvar. Each of these groups has as its specialty one or more of the "colleges" of magic. A mage must choose which convocation he joins when the character is first created. (In "reality," Hârnic mages choose their college after complex astrological and psychological calculations, but in a designed character system we can ignore this.) A mage (until he reaches the rank of Grey Sorcerer) will use the magic of his own convocation more easily than that of others.
The convocations are ordered on the so-called Wheel of the Shek-Pvar. (See Hârnmaster: Shek-Pvar 1 for the Wheel and a definition of the terms that follow.) Mages use spells at the following bonuses and penalties:
Own Convocation: +2 to skill
Secondary Convocation: +1 to skill
Tertiary Convocation: -1 to skill
Diametric Convocation: -2 to skill
Optionally, the same bonuses and penalties can be allowed for resisting spells.
Spells and Colleges not assigned to one of the Convocations (Neutral spells) have neither bonus nor penalty.
Improvised Magic is possible but the Convocation modifiers are ignored when calculating the Improvised Magic Score and when calculating prerequisites. The bonus/penalty only applies to actual casting.
The Convocations of the Shek-Pvar are:
The Lyahvi: Air, Illusion and Creation and the spells of Light from the college of Light and Darkness (Light, Continual Light, Colors and Flash).
The Peleahn: The spells of Fire except for Cold – perhaps the smallest list but having some of the most useful attack spells.
The Jmorvi: Making and Breaking and Enchantment.
The Fyvaria: Earth, Plants, Animals, Healing and Necromancy.
The Odivshe: Water and the Darkness spells from the College of Light and Darkness (i.e., all those not given to the Lyahvi) and Cold.
The Savorya: Empathy and Communication and Mind Control.
The career structure of the Shek-Pvar is complex (see Hârnmaster: Shek-Pvar 2 to 3). Newly generated mage characters are assumed to have completed their apprenticeships and set out to wander Hârn as Satia-Mavari (a stage between journeyman and apprentice.) They may know any spells of their own convocation (and their prerequisites), and any spells listed in the Basic Set. Their knowledge of the spells of their Tertiary and Diametric Convocations is likely to be sketchy.
To become a Journeyman (Shenava) a mage must:
The ultimate rank in the Shek-Pvar is that of Grey Sorcerer – a Mage who has transcended the limits of the six convocations and is equally at home with all of them. He may develop new spells of any convocation or neutral spells. To become a Grey Sorcerer a Mage must have:
When he becomes a Grey Sorcerer a Shek-Pvar loses all the bonuses and penalties applied to lesser spell-casters. He may create new spells of any convocation.
The Shek-Pvar may use improvised magic only within their own convocation until they become Grey Sorcerers. That is, any improvised or new spell must contain at least one of the Words (see GURPS Magic, p. 77) used by their own convocation.
The only other form of Improvised Magic in use on Kethira is the Rune-Magic which was invented by the Khuzan, the Dwarves of Kethira, and is used today by them and the Ivinians. Neither the Ivinians nor the Khuzan practice the more formal sorcery of the Shek-Pvar which is derived from the practices of the Elves.
College of Enchantment
This creates a device that gives a bonus to all spells cast through it. The Focus is personal to the creator and must be in a form appropriate to his convocation. It gives full bonus only to spells of his own convocation and half that (round down) for spells of a secondary convocation. Other spells are unaffected. A Critical Success in enchanting a focus creates an "open focus" usable by any mage.
Cost: 500 for +1, 1,000 for +2, 2,000 for +3, 4,000 for +4. No further improvement is possible. Energy may be added gradually as for weapons enchantments.
College of Meta-Spells
This creates an area permanently aspected to the casting of magic of the wizard's own convocation. Unlike the Focus, it can be used by any wizard. Again, there is a half bonus for Secondary Convocations. Grey Mages (it is said) can create areas with bonuses for all magic, and even raise the mana level. Who knows?
Prerequisite: Restore Mana.
Base Cost: 500/ +1 bonus, doubling for each additional bonus.
Alchemists use the standard Alchemy rules from GURPS Magic (though the names of the potions should be altered to eliminate the Roman references). Apothecary is a professional skill (Mental/Hard) which defaults to Botany-3. It covers the identification and preparation of all medically and magically useful plants known on Hârn, including but not limited to those listed in the Herblore article in Encyclopedia Hârnica 9.
Although magic and psi are not the same thing, the people of Hârn will refer to those possessed of psi powers as "magicians" or "witches." Training for such talents can be obtained through the Guild of Arcane Lore, rural "wise-women" or barbarian shamans.
Our thanks to Columbia Games (PO Box 3457, Blaine, WA 98230) for granting their permission to publish this article. Hârn is a trademark of Columbia Games. Illustrations in this article are copyright © 1984, 1985 by N. Robin Crossby and Columbia Games.
Copyright © 1997-2013 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved.